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Dr. Kayla Bechthold Blog: Do Diabetics Need Eye Exams During COVID-19?

Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in 2015, and now is the eighth leading cause of death (during COVID-19). The incidence of new diabetes is more than 4000 cases per day. Diabetics have a 60 percent increased risk for cataracts and a 40% increased risk for glaucoma. Twenty eight percent of adults over age 40 with diabetes have diabetic retinopathy.

Cataracts are a clouding of the lens inside the eye, which makes distance vision blurry and night driving difficult. Usual treatment is cataract surgery.

Glaucoma occurs when the pressure inside the eye causes damage to the nerve tissue of the retina, resulting in decreased peripheral, then central vision. Usual treatments are eye drops or surgery.

Diabetic retinopathy results from leaking blood vessels. In diabetics the connections between the cells in the walls of the blood vessels don’t adhere together as they should. Because of this, protein, fluid, and even blood can leak out of the vessels. This causes damage to the underlying tissue and also damages the tissue that was supposed to fed by the blood that leaked out of the vessels. This causes blurred vision and even blindness if not treated promptly. Usual treatments are injections or laser.

Diabetes doesn’t make one more likely to get COVID-19, but the sickness tends to be worse in patients who have diabetes. Because of that, eye exams for diabetics have been put on hold.

COVID-19 has put extra stress on everyone, diabetics included. Stress and lack of routine care make it more difficult to maintain blood sugars.

If a diabetic notices a fast decrease or change in vision they still need to be seen. A call to your eye doctor to set up an emergency visit is in order. At our office we are still seeing emergency patients, and take utmost care that there is only one patient in the office at a time, sanitizing surfaces, masks, and social distancing.

When routine eye care is allowed, diabetics need to be seen right away. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in people ages 20-60. If you are diabetic, please make sure you have your eyes checked yearly, and come in for an exam as soon as it is safe to do so.

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