November is American Diabetes Month
Remember that yearly, comprehensive eye exams remain a critical pathway to eye, vision and overall health
Nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes and another 86 million have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. In addition, diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults.
Early symptoms of diabetic eye and vision disorders are often subtle or unnoticed. However, the good news is that advancements in optometric technology are improving patient outcomes and leading to earlier detection of eye diseases to help preserve sight.
Individuals with diabetes are at a significantly higher risk for developing eye and vision disorders, including:
- Diabetic retinopathy: One of the most serious sight-threatening complications of diabetes, diabetic retinopathy causes progressive damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina of the eye. Between 40 to 45 percent of Americans with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy, and if left untreated, it can lead to blindness. Early detection is key for best treatments.
- Glaucoma: Those with diabetes are 40 percent more likely to suffer from glaucoma than people without diabetes. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases characterized by damage to the optic nerve resulting in gradual peripheral vision loss. While glaucoma is not preventable, the key is to identify and diagnose the disease early and treat it to slow the progression of vision loss.
- Cataracts: With cataracts, the eye’s natural clear lens clouds, which can block light and interfere with vision, and individuals with diabetes are 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts. Additionally, high blood sugar can lead to changes in the lens and may put you at a higher risk of developing cataracts.
- Macular degeneration: People with diabetes can also be at risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) if they have excessive blood sugar levels. The macula (or the middle part of the retina) is responsible for providing clear, central vision and can cause blurred, distorted or dimmed vision if AMD occurs.
Based on recent research, we know that 58 percent of adults with diabetes had an eye exam in the past year, which is troubling among eye doctors. We recommend people, especially those with diabetes, have a comprehensive eye examination by a doctor of optometry at least once a year. When the eyes are dilated, an eye doctor is able to examine the optic nerve, the retina and the retinal blood vessels to assess eye health and even a person’s overall health.