Monday, November 24, 2008

Diabetes vs. visual impairment

Each year thousands of Americans are diagnosed with diabetes.

Not only do they have to learn how to manage their disease, they also need to be concerned about vision.German Martinez has a doctor check his eyes regularly, because he doesn't want his vision to get any worse.

He's already considered legally blind.

"I no longer drive, because I'm visually impaired and I can no longer pass the DMV eye test," said Martinez.

Doctors say diabetes caused his vision problems.

"With diabetes, the disease process has to do with blood and the blood vessels start becoming leaky and can clog up also so what will happen in the eye is the blood vessels start leaking, they can leak fluid or blood or lipids and that can cause huge vision damage," Optometrist Dr. Karin Meng said.

Martinez has diabetic retinopathy, abnormal blood vessel changes in the eye's retina.

It can cause patients to see the world like this, experience blurriness, and in some cases blindness.
Hispanic Americans like Martinez are especially at risk for the condition because they're at higher risk of developing diabetes.

Optometrist Dr. Karin Meng says the best thing diabetics can do for their eyes is to get regular checkups and effectively manage their disease.

"The best thing you can do is take care of your diabetes: follow your doctor's instructions, exercise is a big component, the correct diet is a big component, take the medications," said Dr. Meng.
The first signs of vision problems related to diabetes include fluctuating, blotchy or blurred vision.
Diabetics are also more likely to develop glaucoma, a disease that damages the optic nerve.
A laser treatment prevented Martinez from further vision loss.

He may not be able to drive any longer, but he's the driving force behind encouraging other diabetics to get their eyes checked.


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