DANVILLE -- Diabetic eye disease is a complication of diabetes that encompasses a series of conditions that can become a serious threat to vision if not detected and treated.

"The potential for significant vision loss or blindness is a reality for diabetics, primarily those who fail to have a dilated eye exam annually," said Dr. Steven J. Marks, an ophthalmologist at Geisinger Medical Center.

One of the leading causes is diabetic retinopathy.

Its onset comes with little warning yet it can lead to severe vision loss or blindness.

According to Dr. Marks, this condition occurs when abnormal blood vessels form and leak into the back of the eye, resulting in vision loss.

Laser treatments are available to decrease the risk of severe vision loss in some forms of diabetic retinopathy.

"It is estimated that 40 to 45 percent of those diagnosed with diabetes are living with some degree of diabetic retinopathy," said Dr. Marks.

Glaucoma is another condition that can impact diabetics.

"This group of diseases damages the eye's optic nerve and poses a threat of severe vision loss or blindness if not treated," said Dr. Marks, who added that the most common form of glaucoma causes a buildup of pressure inside the eye.

"This can typically be treated with medications, but sometimes laser or surgical interventions are required."

While anyone is susceptible to cataracts -- the clouding of the eye's lens -- diabetics are at particular risk. According to Dr. Marks, surgical intervention removes the affected lens, which is replaced with an artificial lens to restore clear vision.

"While state-of-the-art procedures are available to treat these common eye diseases of diabetics, the best policy is to be proactive in monitoring the health of your vision, and detecting disease in its earliest stages," said Dr. Marks.

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