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Ever wonder why your eye care team usually asks when your last eye exam was?

For people with diabetes, regular eye exams can help us assess our risk for retinal diseases like Diabetic Retinopathy (DR).

If caught early, vision loss associated with DR is preventable. That’s why assessing risk is crucial to seeing initial signs and learning potential treatment options.

Here’s what you need to know about Diabetic Retinopathy.

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic Retinopathy is a retinal disease that affects people with diabetes as they age.

DR is caused when too much blood sugar from diabetes damages the blood vessels of the retina. The blood vessels can bulge, weaken, and leak blood into your retina, which can cause vision loss.

What are the first signs of diabetic retinopathy?

You may have no symptoms in the early stages of DR. However, as DR develops, noticeable symptoms may include:
• Blurriness in the center of vision
• Blind spots or patches
• Straight lines that look wavy
• Colors that look dull or washed out

How is diabetic eye disease diagnosed?

Your eye doctor may use several tests to help properly diagnose diabetic eye disease:

Visual Acuity Test

This test measures how well you see the letters on an eye chart from a distance.

Dilated Eye Exam

Your doctor puts drops into your eye to dilate (widen) the pupil. He or she can then see in the back of the eye, including the retina, for signs of problems or changes.

Tonometry

This test measures the pressure inside your eye. High eye pressure may signal potential eye disease.

Fluorescein Angiography

Dye is injected into a vein in your arm. The dye lets your eye doctor see the blood vessels in your eye to check for leaks or changes in the retina.

Optical Coherence Tomography

This scan shows the layers of the retina and measures retinal thickness. It can help show your eye doctor if fluid is within or under the retina.

Fundus Photography

This test lets your eye doctor look closely at your retina by taking pictures of the back of the eye.

Even if you don’t have symptoms of diabetic eye disease, these tests can help determine your risk.

How is diabetic retinopathy treated?

Diabetic Retinopathy can be treated in multiple ways.

First, by self-care through blood glucose management with diet, exercise and medications. Depending on the scope and progression of the disease, various treatment options are available.

What happens if you don’t treat diabetic retinopathy?

Untreated diabetic retinopathy damages your eye’s retina. Your eye will try to grow new blood vessels but they won’t develop well. You could also see increased vision loss.

How do I know if I’m experiencing DR?

In addition to monitoring for symptoms, it’s important to keep up with annual eye checkups and talk with your doctor openly about any noticeable changes in vision.

The earlier diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed, the better.

This content was originally published here.