Q: What is diabetic retinopathy?
A: Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is an eye disease that can occur at any stage and with any type of diabetes. In fact, sometimes diabetes is identified during an eye exam in a person who never suspected it. It is caused by damage to the very delicate blood vessels within the retina at the back of the eye. As DR progresses, these blood vessels may start to leak blood and fluid into the retina or other areas of the eye, and new vessels may begin to grow within the retina, which can cause vision loss, and sudden complications including internal bleeds and retinal detachment.
Q: How do I tell that I am developing glaucoma?
A: The real tragedy behind vision-stealing glaucoma is that most people afflicted with this eye disease do not even realize they have it. As a result, the condition goes undiagnosed and untreated, which too often leads to unnecessary blindness. Of the 2.7 million people in the United States with glaucoma, half are undiagnosed. Most are lulled into a false sense of confidence because glaucoma often displays no symptoms in its early stages. By the time it begins to affect vision, any lost sight is impossible to regain. The risk of developing glaucoma begins to increase dramatically at midlife, which is why everyone should have a baseline exam by age 40. The most important concern is protecting your sight. Doctors look at many factors before making decisions about your treatment. If your condition is particularly difficult to diagnose or treat, you may be referred to a glaucoma specialist. While glaucoma is most common in middle-aged individuals, the disease can strike at any age, with those having a family history of the disease being especially vulnerable.
Q: Who's at the most risk for macular degeneration?
A: If you're over age 65, a smoker, african american, have vascular health problems, or have a family member with macular degeneration, you have an increased risk for macular degeneration. You're also at risk if you take these drugs: Aralen (chloroquine) or phenothiazine derivatives [Thorazine (chlorpromazine), Mellaril (thioridazine), Prolixin (fluphenazine), Trilafon (perphenazine) and Stelazine (trifluoperazine)].
Q: Is there any way to prevent macular degeneration?
A: Doctors aren't sure how to prevent macular degeneration. Research suggests that ultraviolet light (and possibly blue light) factors into the problem, so sunglasses could be very beneficial. What you eat also affects your macula. Researchers know that antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E), zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and essential fatty acids all can aid in preventing and slowing down macular degeneration. Read more about nutrition and eye health. Ask your doctor about recommended nutritional supplements. Exercising and quitting smoking might also be helpful.