Best Life: Diabetic retinopathy in kids and young adults

Published: Apr. 8, 2020 at 7:06 AM CDT
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NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Type one diabetes is one of the most common disorders in kids affecting two in every 1,000 school-aged children. With obesity on the rise, the number of kids with Type two diabetes is increasing.

Doctors say it’s possible to overlook a dangerous complication of the disease: diabetic retinopathy, damage to the blood vessels in the eye. Ivanhoe has details on what parents and patients need to know to protect and preserve vision.

Twenty-one-year-old Alexandria White wants to work as an animator someday. For now, she’s happy she can put pencil to paper and see her sketches.

“One night we were going out to eat, and I noticed little black spots in my vision,” shared Alexandria.

An Ophthalmologist discovered Alexandria had diabetic retinopathy. High blood sugar from Type one diabetes was damaging blood vessels in her eyes.

Gennady Landa, MD, Director, Retina Service, NY Eye & Ear Infirmary of Mt. Sinai, explained, “When abnormal blood vessels they grow inside the retina and sometimes they bleed because they were very fragile.”

Doctor Landa said most people think of retinopathy as a condition of middle age, not something that strikes kids.

“In younger patients, we see more aggressive forms of diabetes in the eye,” Dr. Landa continued.

There are usually no symptoms in the early stages, but as it progresses, kids can have blurred vision, dark spots, or floaters. Some guidelines suggest yearly eye doctor visits for kids over nine beginning three years after a diabetes diagnosis. In some patients, doctors may dilate the eyes, and monitor the blood vessels in the retina as often as every four months.

Alexandria had laser surgery to correct retinal detachment caused by bleeding and scar tissue. She’s very careful to control her blood sugar to protect her restored sight.

“Your whole perception of the world could be taken away,” said Alexandria.

Doctors said the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy increases the longer a person has diabetes, but again, that risk is lowered by controlling the disease. They say the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy before the age of nine is very low, which is why regular screening is not usually recommended before that age.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Kirk Manson, Videographer.

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