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It is well known that people with diabetes will often have vision problems. The most common condition in both the Type 1 (insulin-dependent) and Type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. After a 20-year duration of diabetes, nearly all patients with Type 1 diabetes and 60% of patients with Type 2 diabetes has some degree of retinopathy. Depending upon the severity of retinopathy, the ability to see (visual acuity) ranges from 20/20 (normal) to total blindness. the most common causes of decreased vision for many persons with diabetes is lens changes due to fluctuation of blood sugar levels or retinal (macular) edema.
If you or a person you know has decreased vision due to diabetes there is help! First they must be under the care of a physician that is actively working with the patient to obtain the best blood sugar control. They must be seeing an optometrist or ophthalmologist who is providing a dilated eye exam at appropriate intervals and treatment as needed. Additionally, having the assistance of a eye doctor specializing in low vision added to the team. The low vision doctor does not replace any eye doctor but is used in addition to the current eye doctors. The eye doctor specializing in low vision is able to assist with evaluating the level of vision the person has and then making recommendation for specialized low vision glasses, eye exercises (eccentric viewing training) and recommending non-optical devices such as talking glucose monitor, appropriate sunglasses, etc. Specialized low vision glasses are usually high powered telescopic glasses to enable reading or watching TV or seeing faces, specialized high powered reading bifocals or glasses to allow reading standard print, seeing to pay bills and sometimes as simple as a good hand-held magnifier that is matched to the glasses the person is wearing. Whatever the recommendation the goal is increased functional vision to maintain the highest level of independence possible. that is our goal! So a critical part of the medical team in treating someone with diabetes who is experiencing vision loss and low of independence is the eye doctor specializing in low vision.