Are You at Risk of Developing Diabetic Eye Disease?

Posted By Key-Whitman Eye Center || 28-Oct-2014

Nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes. As many as 25 to 45 percent of diabetics will develop some form of diabetic eye disease, also known as diabetic retinopathy.

November is American Diabetes Month. If you have diabetes or prediabetes, it is important that you educate yourself on the potential health complications associated with the disease and how to prevent them.

What is diabetic eye disease?

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that occurs when the blood vessels in the back of the eye become weak and leak fluid. In some cases, abnormal blood vessels begin to grow on the surface of the retina. These abnormal vessels can hemorrhage, causing vision damage.

Diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of blindness in adults ages 20 to 64, and is one of the most common causes of retinal blindness in the world.

What are the symptoms of diabetic eye disease?

Diabetics can live with diabetic eye disease for a long time before noticing any changes in vision or symptoms. In most cases, noticeable symptoms do not appear until significant damage to the eye has occurred. Symptoms of diabetic eye disease include:

• Blurred or distorted vision
• Difficulty reading
• Seeing double
• Floaters or spots in the field of vision
• Partial or total vision loss

Who is at risk of developing diabetic eye disease?

Diabetic retinopathy is the result of diabetes, but not all diabetics will develop the eye condition. Some diabetics are at higher risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. These risk factors include:

• Poor management of diabetes
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol
• Smoking
• Lack of preventative eye care

How can diabetic eye disease be prevented?

If you are a diabetic, you can reduce your risk of developing eye disease by following these tips:

  • Properly manage your diabetes. Make a commitment to eat a healthy diet and make physical exercise a priority. Regular, moderate aerobic activity, such as walking, can reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. It’s also important to closely monitor your blood sugar. Too much fluctuation in your blood glucose levels can affect your vision.
  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in check. High blood pressure and cholesterol elevate your risk of developing eye disease. You can manage your blood pressure and cholesterol by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, losing weight and managing stress.
  • Quit smoking.Smoking and other tobacco use increases risk of a number of health conditions, including diabetic retinopathy. Enroll in a smoking cessation program or ask your doctor for advice on how to quit smoking.
  • Maintain yearly eye exams. Early detection is key. Keep up with your yearly eye exams so that your doctor can diagnose any early signs of diabetic retinopathy before it’s too late. If you notice sudden changes in your vision, contact your doctor right away.

Diabetics can live with diabetic retinopathy for a long time before noticing any changes in vision or symptoms. Noticeable symptoms typically do not appear until significant damage to the eye has occurred. Because symptoms do not typically present until the condition is severe, it is crucial that you maintain regular eye exams if you are a diabetic. Early detection and treatment may save your vision. If you have diabetes, schedule a comprehensive eye exam with Key-Whitman Eye Center today.

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