Spotlight on Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetes Awareness Month

November is officially Diabetes Awareness Month. It’s also Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month. In truth, there is never a bad time to shine a spotlight on this debilitating (and potentially sight-stealing) disease. Most recent stats report that diabetes affects about 30 million people in the United States!

Diabetic Eye Disease is a real threat to anyone who suffers from diabetes. Here are 8 facts you need to know about diabetes and your vision:

  1. You can develop diabetic eye disease without showing ANY symptoms. In fact, diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of blindness among adults between the ages of 20 and 74.
  2. At any given time, people with diabetes could develop diabetic eye disease. When blood sugar levels remain elevated over a long period, complications can occur throughout your body, including your eyes.
  3. Pregnant women who have diabetes are at particular risk of developing diabetic eye disease.
  4. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina, which is light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. As the disease progresses, blood vessels become blocked and prevent areas of the retina from receiving vital blood and nutrients.
  5. Diabetic macular edema is a complication of diabetic retinopathy. It is caused by damaged blood vessels that swell and leak fluid into the macula (which is responsible for sharp, central vision). Over time, this swelling can lead to vision loss.
  6. Other vision complications from diabetes include glaucoma and cataracts. Individuals with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts at a younger age and are twice as likely to develop glaucoma as are non-diabetics. Regular eye exams, early detection, and timely disease management can help protect against further vision loss.
  7. If you have diabetic eye disease, you face a very real risk of losing your vision. However, it’s possible to reduce the risk of diabetes-related blindness. You have the power to help protect against diabetes-related vision loss!
  8. You should have an annual dilated eye exam. It can help detect things that a regular vision test cannot and it can help detect more serious vision problems.

Why You Shouldn’t Skip Your Annual Sight-Saving Exam

Researchers at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia found that more than half of patients with diabetes skip an annual comprehensive eye exam. They also discovered that patients who smoke, and those with less severe diabetes and no eye problems, were most likely to neglect having these recommended checks.

The researchers worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to review the charts of almost 2,000 patients age 40 or older who have Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes to see how many had regular eye exams annually.

Their findings, which represent a four-year period, revealed the following:

  • Fifty-eight percent of patients did not have regular follow-up eye exams
  • Smokers were 20 percent less likely to have exams
  • Those with less severe disease and no eye problems were least likely to follow recommendations
  • Those who had diabetic retinopathy were 30 percent more likely to have follow-up exams

Annual comprehensive eye exams are critical as they can reveal hidden signs of disease, allowing for more timely treatment. This is why the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends people with diabetes have them annually or more often as recommended by their ophthalmologist, a physician who specializes in medical and surgical eye care.

“Vision loss is always tragic, but especially so when it is preventable.
It’s important for people with diabetes to understand just how important it is
to have a yearly comprehensive eye exam.”

Mike Mann, MD, board-certified ophthalmologist and founder of Mann Eye Institute

At Mann Eye Institute, we want our patients to enjoy a high quality of life while managing their diabetes. We have extensive experience in the diagnosis and management of diabetic eye disease so that every patient we serve can See Life Better.

If you have diabetes, schedule a comprehensive eye exam at Mann Eye Institute today to protect yourself from preventable vision loss.

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