You’ve heard of diabetes, but have you ever heard of diabetic retinopathy? While most understand that diabetes is a disease that affects blood sugar levels, few understand that there are wider complications, including issues that affect the eyes. Diabetic retinopathy progresses slowly and damages the back of the eye, eventually leading to irreversible vision loss if left untreated.
In honor of Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness, Drs. Kopolow & Girisgen’s Director of Business Development, Chris Moran, shares his personal story of his journey with diabetic retinopathy, and how his annual eye exam led to changing his overall health and vision.
Yes! In fact, I’m a diabetes educator and am certified to teach Diabetes and Chronic Disease Self-Management classes as well as the CDC Prevent T2 program. Educating others about diabetes has always been important to me because I lost my father at age 49 from diabetic complications. Ironically, part of what I teach in each presentation is the importance of annual eye exams.
Eye exams can tell us a lot about our health, and not just our eye health. Oftentimes, people are diagnosed with diabetes or high blood pressure via an eye exam before they experience any other symptoms. There are so many different diseases of the eye that you won’t know you have until it's too late.
We prioritize going to our primary care physicians annually, and typically at each exam, they do blood work to test the function of our organs, but they don’t test anything for our eyes. The only way to ensure your eyes are healthy is by scheduling an annual eye exam.
Last March, I visited my eye doctor for my annual eye exam. Upon examination, he noticed I had dot-blot hemorrhaging, which is the leaking of blood vessels in the back of the eyes. This can be caused by a few different things, but he was sure mine was caused by diabetic retinopathy and suggested I visit my primary care physician for further testing. Upon visiting my primary doctor, I learned my A1C level was 10.8%. For reference, a normal level is typically below 5.7%.
What’s so important to understand here is that my exam the year prior showed no leaking blood vessels. If I had skipped just one year of my eye exams, it would have been much worse, and I could have some vision loss.
Yes - if caught early enough. Early detection can reverse bleeding by managing your blood sugar through diet. If it’s too late, it can cause vision loss. In fact, it’s the number one cause of blindness in the US. Thankfully, with proper diet and medication, my diabetes is now well managed, and my A1C has dropped to 6.7%.
Don’t neglect your eyes. Scheduling an annual eye exam is important not only for your vision, but for your overall health.
If you need to schedule your annual eye examination, the doctors at Kopolow and Girisgen, Doctors of Optometry are here for you. Schedule an appointment online or simply text GLASSES to 21000 and a friendly member of our team will be in touch.