Can diabetic retinopathy be treated?
Yes. Your eye care professional may suggest laser surgery in which a strong light beam is aimed onto the retina.
Laser surgery and appropriate followup care can reduce the risk of blindness by 90 percent. However, laser surgery often cannot restore vision that has already been lost, which is why finding diabetic retinopathy early is the best way to prevent vision loss.
Can diabetic retinopathy be prevented?
Not totally, but your risk can be greatly reduced. The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) showed that better control of blood sugar level slows the onset and progression of retinopathy and lessens the need for laser surgery for severe retinopathy.
The study found that the group that tried to keep their blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible also had much less kidney and nerve disease. This level of blood sugar control may not be best for everyone, including some older adults, children under 13, or people with heart disease. So ask your doctor if this program is right for you.
How common are the other diabetic eye diseases?
If you have diabetes, you are also at risk for other diabetic eye diseases, such as cataract and glaucoma. People with diabetes develop cataract at an earlier age than people without diabetes. Cataract can usually be treated by surgery.
A person with diabetes is nearly twice as likely to get glaucoma as other adults. And, as with diabetic retinopathy, the longer you have had diabetes, the greater your risk of getting glaucoma. Glaucoma may be treated with medications, laser surgery, or conventional surgery.
What research is being done?
Much research is being done to learn more about diabetic eye disease. For instance, the National Eye Institute is supporting a number of research studies in the laboratory and with patients to learn what causes diabetic retinopathy and how it can be better treated. This research should provide better ways to detect and treat diabetic eye disease and prevent blindness in more people with diabetes.
What can you do to protect your vision?
Finding and treating the disease early, before it causes vision loss or blindness, is the best way to control diabetic eye disease. So if you have diabetes, make sure you get a comprehensive dilated eye examination at least once a year.
Diabetes is a disease that can cause very serious health problems. If you have diabetes:
- Know your ABCs: A1C (blood glucose), blood pressure (BP), and cholesterol numbers.
- Take your medicines as prescribed by your doctor.
- Monitor your blood sugar daily.
- Reach and stay at a healthy weight.
- Get regular physical activity.
- Quit smoking.