November is National Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of preventable blindness in American adults. While early detection is key to treating diabetic eye diseases, such as retinopathy and macular edema, many Americans are not taking the necessary steps to detect or slow the disease process.

“It’s important that diabetics have, at least, annual retinal eye exams to detect early changes,” said Seema Walia, MD, LSU/Ochsner Residency Program Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology and Lighthouse Louisiana board member. “As we find these changes in the eyes, we are also getting a glimpse into what’s going on in the rest of the body. Diabetic eye disease occurs in conjunction with small vessel damage throughout the body, including the nervous system as well as in the kidneys. Finding eye disease helps us identify patients at greater risk for diabetic neuropathy and nephropathy."

With early detection by eye specialists, diabetic eye disease can trigger effective intervention. Ophthalmologists treat diabetic retinopathy with laser, intraocular injections, and surgery. However, once the retina is overly damaged by diabetic change, it becomes more difficult to treat.

“There have been great strides in the last 10 to 15 years in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy,” said Dr. Walia. “But the best treatment is prevention. Our goal is to stop these patients from entering the slippery slope of diabetic eye disease leading to vision loss.”