Diabetes — the Leading Cause of Blindness

October may be National Diabetes Month, but for me as an eye doctor, every month is diabetes month. Complications from diabetes are the leading cause of blindness in adults in the United States. For my patients who are diabetic, I am always on the lookout for bleeding inside the eye as well as internal swelling, which can occur without any symptoms! Without treatment, the bleeding and swelling will eventually cause irreversible vision loss. So that’s the bad news; the good news is that this does not have to be the path of everyone with diabetes. 

So you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, now what? Your primary care doctor (PCP) or endocrinologist will work with you to make adjustments to your diet and lifestyle to help stabilize your blood sugar levels. At your visits to your doctor, which may be as often as three months, your doctor will measure your A1c. The A1c is an average measurement of your blood sugar levels for the last 3 months. The A1c, along with your home blood glucose readings, allow you and your doctor to monitor the stability of your blood sugar. The A1c and your blood glucose readings are important numbers for you to know. Your doctor will also refer you to an optometrist, like me, for you to have a dilated eye exam. 

The Diabetic Eye Exam

At your visit, we’ll discuss how well your blood sugar has been controlled; I’ll ask about your blood glucose levels, your last A1c, and how long you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes. It is important for me to know these details to assess your risk for retinopathy and vision loss. At this visit, I’ll examine your retina (the light-sensitive tissue that lines the inside of your eye) and assess whether there is any active bleeding which is also called retinopathy. After your exam, I’ll send your PCP a note with the results of your exam. 

If you have bleeding in your eye, I’ll assess the severity and together we’ll decide the next steps. If mild, we’ll work with your PCP to stabilize your blood sugar and I’ll see you back in 6 months or so. If more significant disease is found, we’ll follow up together more frequently and may consult a retinal specialist. 

Managing Diabetes.

Living with diabetes can be challenging! You’re juggling new medications and you’re making big changes to your lifestyle and your diet. Your care team; your primary care doctor, endocrinologist, nutritionist, and your optometrist; are all on your side to help you stabilize your blood sugar and continue a healthy life free of the complications of diabetes. 

Bio: Courtney Beaumont, O.D. is a Board Certified Optometrist who practices at the Sebring location for Eye Specialists of Mid-Florida. She is currently accepting new patients. Please call 800-282-3937 or visit EYESFL.COM

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