Information for Patients
Diabetic Eye Problems
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from foods you eat. The cells of your body need glucose for energy. A hormone called insulin helps the glucose get into your cells.
With type 1 diabetes, your body doesn't make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn't make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, glucose builds up in your blood and causes high blood sugar levels.
What eye problems can diabetes cause?
Over time, high blood sugar may damage the blood vessels and lenses in your eyes. This can lead to serious diabetic eye problems which can harm your vision and sometimes cause blindness. Some common diabetes eye problems include:
- Diabetic retinopathy, which is the leading cause of blindness in American adults. It affects blood vessels in the retina (the light-sensitive layer of tissue in the back of your eye). The blood vessels may swell and leak fluid into your eye. If it's not treated, it can cause serious problems such as vision loss and retinal detachment, where the retina is pulled away from its normal position at the back of your eye.
- Diabetic macular edema (DME), which happens when blood vessels in the retina leak fluid into the macula (a part of the retina needed for sharp, central vision). This usually develops in people who already have other signs of diabetic retinopathy.
- Glaucoma, a group of eye diseases that can damage the optic nerve (the bundle of nerves that connects the eye to the brain). Glaucoma from diabetes happens when the blood vessels in the front of your eye are damaged, and new blood vessels grow near the iris (the colored part of your eye). The blood vessels block the space where fluid drains from your eye. This causes fluid to build up and pressure to increase inside your eye.
- Cataract, which happen when the clear lens in the front of your eye becomes cloudy. Cataracts are common as people age. But people with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts younger and faster than people without diabetes. Researchers think that high glucose levels cause deposits to build up in the lenses of your eyes.
Who is more likely to develop diabetic eye problems?
Anyone with diabetes can develop diabetic eye disease. But your risk of developing it is higher if you:
- Have had diabetes for a long time
- Don't have good control over your high blood sugar or high blood pressure
- Are pregnant
- Have high blood cholesterol
- Smoke tobacco
What are the symptoms of diabetic eye problems?
In the early stages, diabetic eye problems usually don't have any symptoms. That's why regular dilated eye exams are so important, even if you think your eyes are healthy.
You should also watch for sudden changes in your vision that could mean an emergency. Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these symptoms:
- Many new spots or dark wavy strings floating in your vision (floaters)
- Flashes of light
- A dark shadow over part of your vision, like a curtain
- Vision loss
- Eye pain or redness
Talk with your doctor if you have these symptoms, even if they come and go:
- Spots or dark wavy strings floating in your vision
- Blurry or wavy vision
- Vision that changes a lot
- Trouble seeing colors
How are diabetic eye problems diagnosed?
Eye doctors do dilated eye exams to diagnose eye problems. A dilated eye exam uses eye drops to open your pupils wide so your doctor can look for signs of eye problems and treat them before they harm your vision. Your doctor will also test your vision and measure the pressure in your eyes.
What are the treatments for diabetic eye problems?
Treatment for diabetic eye problems depends on the problem and how serious it is. Some of the treatments include:
- Lasers to stop blood vessels from leaking
- Injections (shots) in the eye to stop new, leaky blood vessels from growing
- Surgery to remove blood and scar tissue or replace a cloudy lens
- Eye drops to lower fluid pressure in the eye
But these treatments aren't cures. Eye problems can come back. That's why your best defense against serious vision loss is to take control of your diabetes and get regular eye exams. It's also important to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in a healthy range.
NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
General Equivalence Map Definitions
The ICD-9 and ICD-10 GEMs are used to facilitate linking between the diagnosis codes in ICD-9-CM and the new ICD-10-CM code set. The GEMs are the raw material from which providers, health information vendors and payers can derive specific applied mappings to meet their needs.
- Approximate Flag - The approximate flag is on, indicating that the relationship between the code in the source system and the code in the target system is an approximate equivalent.
- No Map Flag - The no map flag indicates that a code in the source system is not linked to any code in the target system.
- Combination Flag - The combination flag indicates that more than one code in the target system is required to satisfy the full equivalent meaning of a code in the source system.
Index of Diseases and Injuries Definitions
- And - The word "and" should be interpreted to mean either "and" or "or" when it appears in a title.
- Code also note - A "code also" note instructs that two codes may be required to fully describe a condition, but this note does not provide sequencing direction.
- Code first - Certain conditions have both an underlying etiology and multiple body system manifestations due to the underlying etiology. For such conditions, the ICD-10-CM has a coding convention that requires the underlying condition be sequenced first followed by the manifestation. Wherever such a combination exists, there is a "use additional code" note at the etiology code, and a "code first" note at the manifestation code. These instructional notes indicate the proper sequencing order of the codes, etiology followed by manifestation.
- Type 1 Excludes Notes - A type 1 Excludes note is a pure excludes note. It means "NOT CODED HERE!" An Excludes1 note indicates that the code excluded should never be used at the same time as the code above the Excludes1 note. An Excludes1 is used when two conditions cannot occur together, such as a congenital form versus an acquired form of the same condition.
- Type 2 Excludes Notes - A type 2 Excludes note represents "Not included here". An excludes2 note indicates that the condition excluded is not part of the condition represented by the code, but a patient may have both conditions at the same time. When an Excludes2 note appears under a code, it is acceptable to use both the code and the excluded code together, when appropriate.
- Includes Notes - This note appears immediately under a three character code title to further define, or give examples of, the content of the category.
- Inclusion terms - List of terms is included under some codes. These terms are the conditions for which that code is to be used. The terms may be synonyms of the code title, or, in the case of "other specified" codes, the terms are a list of the various conditions assigned to that code. The inclusion terms are not necessarily exhaustive. Additional terms found only in the Alphabetic Index may also be assigned to a code.
- NEC "Not elsewhere classifiable" - This abbreviation in the Alphabetic Index represents "other specified". When a specific code is not available for a condition, the Alphabetic Index directs the coder to the "other specified” code in the Tabular List.
- NOS "Not otherwise specified" - This abbreviation is the equivalent of unspecified.
- See - The "see" instruction following a main term in the Alphabetic Index indicates that another term should be referenced. It is necessary to go to the main term referenced with the "see" note to locate the correct code.
- See Also - A "see also" instruction following a main term in the Alphabetic Index instructs that there is another main term that may also be referenced that may provide additional Alphabetic Index entries that may be useful. It is not necessary to follow the "see also" note when the original main term provides the necessary code.
- 7th Characters - Certain ICD-10-CM categories have applicable 7th characters. The applicable 7th character is required for all codes within the category, or as the notes in the Tabular List instruct. The 7th character must always be the 7th character in the data field. If a code that requires a 7th character is not 6 characters, a placeholder X must be used to fill in the empty characters.
- With - The word "with" should be interpreted to mean "associated with" or "due to" when it appears in a code title, the Alphabetic Index, or an instructional note in the Tabular List. The word "with" in the Alphabetic Index is sequenced immediately following the main term, not in alphabetical order.