Advancements in Technology Enhance Early Detection of Eye Diseases Associated with Diabetes

HARRISBURG, Nov. 3, 2014 - Early symptoms of diabetic eye and vision disorders are often subtle or unnoticed. New technology available during yearly, comprehensive eye exams are improving patient outcomes and resulting in earlier detection of eye diseases, including those associated with diabetes, which now affects 29 million Americans. These diseases, if left untreated, can potentially lead to vision loss or even blindness.

Optometric researchers have recently employed a new tool that utilizes advanced optics to detect early warning signs of vision loss than can occur due to diabetes. By way of small mirrors with tiny moveable segments to reflect light into the eye, the instrument can detect disease earlier than previous instruments. This new tool was successful in finding widespread damage across the retina of patients who were previously believed to lack an advanced disease.

Diabetes tops the list of leading causes of preventable blindness in adults. Eye doctors are constantly working to find new ways of diagnosing eye and vision disorders related to diabetes. These technological advances are critical in offering earlier and better care for patients with diabetes, diabetic retinopathy and other retinal vascular diseases, before an eye problem reaches an advanced stage.

Individuals with diabetes are at a significantly higher risk for developing the following eye and vision disorders:

  • Diabetic retinopathy: This is one of the most serious sight-threatening complications of diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy causes progressive damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina, which is the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye. If untreated, diabetic retinopathy may lead to blindness.
  • Glaucoma: People with diabetes are 40 percent more likely to suffer from glaucoma than people without diabetes. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that are characterized by damage to the optic nerve that results in gradual peripheral vision loss.
  • Cataracts: With cataracts, the eye's clear lens becomes cloudy, blocking light and interfering with normal vision. Individuals with diabetes are 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts.

Other new advancements are in development to continuing furthering the enhancement of diabetic care, including research on smart contact lenses, which could be used to monitor blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes and possibly provide a new way to dispense medication slowly over time.

These advancements, though able to assist the detection and management of eye diseases, are not replacements for yearly, comprehensive eye exams. When eyes are dilated, an eye doctor is able to examine the optic nerve, retina and the retinal blood vessels to assess eye health and overall health.

If patients, especially those with diabetes, experience any of the following symptoms, the Pennsylvania Optometric Association (POA) recommends contacting a doctor of optometry as soon as possible.

  • Sudden blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Trouble reading or focusing on near-work
  • Eye pain
  • Eye pressure
  • A noticeable aura or dark ring around lights or illuminated objects
  • Visible dark spots in vision or images of flashing lights

The POA also recommends individuals with diabetes take prescribed medication as directed, keep glycohemoglobin test results ("A1c" or average blood sugar level) consistently under seven percent, stick to a healthy diet that includes Omega 3s, fresh fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, control high blood pressure, and avoid alcohol and smoking.

The American Optometric Association provides additional information on eye health and diabetic eye disease here: www.aoa.org/diabetic-retinopathy.xml.

About the Pennsylvania Optometric Association (POA):

The Pennsylvania Optometric Association is the professional organization for over 1,250 doctors of optometry in Pennsylvania. An affiliate of the American Optometric Association, POA promotes the highest quality eye and vision care by optometrists, represents optometry to state government, provides its members with post-graduate education and membership benefits, and conducts activities in the interest of the visual welfare of the public. For more information, visit www.poaeyes.org.

About the American Optometric Association (AOA):

The American Optometric Association, a federation of state, student and armed forces optometric associations, was founded in 1898. Today, the AOA is proud to represent the profession of optometry, America's family eye doctors, who take a leading role in an individual's overall eye and vision care, health and well-being. Doctors of optometry (ODs) are the independent primary health care professionals for the eye and have extensive, ongoing training to examine, diagnose, treat and manage disorders, diseases and injuries that affect the eye and visual system, providing two-thirds of primary eye care in the U.S. For information on a variety of eye health and vision topics, and to find an optometrist near you, visit www.aoa.org.

###