Diabetes and women’s eye health: How to prevent diabetic retinopathy

April 26, 2021

By: Pradeepa Yoganathan, M.D., Wayne Health Department of Opthalmology

Diabetes affects 10% of the U.S. population with 1.5 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes each year. It is a condition where sugar (glucose) remains in the blood rather than entering the body’s cells to be used for energy. This results in high blood sugar. High blood sugar can damage many of the body’s organs over time, including the eyes.

The typical symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst and frequent urination; unexplained increase in appetite; unexplained weight loss; fatigue; blurred vision; and tingling, burning or numbness in the hands and feet. Women can also experience yeast infections, urinary infections and sexual dysfunction.

While the symptoms of diabetes for men and women are similar, the complications of diabetes on health for men and women can vary. Women’s health complications from diabetes are much more silent. Women may experience silent heart attacks and heart disease. Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease by about four times in women but only about two times in men.

Also, women with diabetes can develop a progressive worsening of vision that is typically only noticeable by the individual at later stages. April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety month – a great time to learn about the importance of regular eye exams to prevent vision loss.

Regular visits with an ophthalmologist and your primary care physician can help head off the health complications associated with diabetes. Everyone diagnosed with diabetes should have a retina exam at least every year for the rest of their lives. Diabetes can damage the blood vessels in the retina that provide circulation and oxygen to the crucial parts of the eye that control vision. Diabetic blood vessels can leak fluid or blood which can permanently damage the retina tissue and cause blindness that cannot be corrected with glasses. Most people do not have any symptoms of this and have no idea that their eyes have the disease. Some only come to our clinic when they already have end-stage diabetic retinopathy. The only way to prevent damage is with routine retina exams. When the eye disease is mild or moderate, it can be reversed with proper control of sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking cessation.

Wayne Health ophthalmologists are experts at preventing, treating and managing a full spectrum of eye conditions, including diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma. Our ophthalmologists practice at the internationally renowned Kresge Eye Institute where they have access to state-of-the-art diagnostic testing to assess visual function. Wayne Health ophthalmologists use the most advanced technology to identify retinal disease so that they can personalize each patient’s treatment regimen to their specific eye condition. To set up an appointment with a Wayne Health ophthalmologist, visit our website or call 313-577-8900.

Diabetes and women’s eye health: How to prevent diabetic retinopathy
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