Diabetic macular edema.
"I served honorably in the U.S. Army from September 10, 1966, to September 9, 1968, and now have vision problems. Recently I was evaluated by VA medical center staff, who informed me I have diabetic macular edema, with retinopathy associated with my diabetes mellitus type II. I always had good vision when I was younger, and now that I am getting older, my vision has decreased; I think it may be related to my service in Vietnam.
"Is it possible that my newly diagnosed vision problems and diabetes can be associated with my service in the Republic of Vietnam?"
Yes. Diabetic macular edema may be the cause of blurry vision. This may be an early sign of diabetic retinopathy. Listed below are examples of diabetic macular edema associated with diabetes mellitus type II.
Diabetic macular edema is when swelling of the retina occurs due to leaking of fluid from blood vessels within the macula. The macula is the central portion of the retina, a small area rich in cones, the specialized nerve endings that detect color and upon which daytime vision depends. As macular edema develops, blurring occurs in the middle or just to the side of the central visual field. Visual loss from diabetic macular edema can progress over a period of months and make it impossible to focus clearly.
Macular edema is common in people who have diabetes. The lifetime risk for them to develop macular edema is about 10%. The condition is closely associated with the degree of diabetic retinopathy (retinal disease).
Diabetic macular edema is classified into focal and diffuse types. This is an important difference, because the types differ in treatment. Focal macular edema is caused by foci of vascular abnormalities, primarily micro aneurysms, which tend to leak fluid; diffuse macular edema is caused by dilated retinal capillaries in the retina.
Despite the prominent material about diabetic retinopathy, a less harmful and common eyesight change known as diabetic lens osmosis results from diabetes. This is a short-term complication of high blood sugars and not a long-term complication like retinopathy. It is usually easily treated and curable. This eye condition occurs when, due to high blood sugars, the ocular lens fills with fluid, which changes the way the lens refracts light. Although this takes place commonly with a diagnosis in patients with high sugars (especially rapid-onset type I diabetes), it may also occur over the years if patients cannot control sugars, and blood sugars increase.
So, if you are experiencing blurred vision, see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible. This problem may be an early warning sign of the serious condition diabetic retinopathy--or nothing more than an indication to get better control of your blood-sugar levels.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) considers all veterans who served in Vietnam to have been exposed to herbicides, such as Agent Orange. Those who subsequently develop diabetes are presumed to have incurred it as a result of herbicide exposure. Consequently, you should file a claim for diabetes as well as the vision problems caused by it. Contact your local PVA service officer to ensure you receive all benefits to which you are entitled (see Service Office Roster, p. 50).
Contact: PVA Veterans Benefits Department, 800-424-8200 / 202-872-1300 / www.pva.org.