The American Diabetes Association has designated November as American Diabetes Month to raise awareness about this life-threatening illness. Nearly 26 million men, women and children in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes and another 79 million are at risk for developing type 2 Diabetes.
Diabetes can lead to serious eye conditions, including diabetic retinopathy and cataracts. According to the National Institute of Health, diabetes is a leading cause of blindness in adults ages 20 to 64. Keeping up with regular eye exams can detect early changes in the eyes due to a disease caused by diabetes. Results of a routine eye exam may even be the first indicator of diabetes for some patients.
Vision complications caused by diabetes
Diabetic retinopathy — A condition in the back of the eye in which blood vessels leak, resulting in vision loss. It is one of the most frequent causes of retinal blindness in the world. The National Eye Institute estimates that 40 to 45 percent of all Americans with diabetes have some form of diabetic retinopathy. The incidence of diabetic retinopathy is typically associated with how long one has been living with diabetes, the type of diabetes and low often their blood glucose fluctuates.
Cataracts — A clouding of the lens of the eye. Anyone can get cataracts, but diabetics may be more susceptible to cataracts at an earlier age. This condition can also deteriorate more quickly in diabetic patients, making early treatment essential.
How diabetics can prevent vision complications
The American Diabetes Association suggests that diabetics follow these eye care recommendations to prevent vision problems:
- People with type 2 diabetes should have a dilated eye exam by an ophthalmologist or optometrist shortly after diagnosis, even if they currently do not need glasses or contacts.. Patients with type 1 diabetes should have a dilated eye exam within three to five years of diagnosis.
- Maintain annual eye exams, more frequently if necessary.
- If considering pregnancy, have an eye exam prior to conception and at least once during pregnancy.
- Control blood sugar and high blood pressure by maintaining a healthy weight with a low calorie diet and regular exercise.
If you have diabetes and experience black spots in vision, flashes of light, blurred vision or “holes” in your vision, contact your doctor immediately. At Key-Whitman, we recommend that diabetic patients come in regularly for checkups. The earlier any vision issues are detected, the less likely you are to experience complications.