Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working-age Americans. Approximately 29 million Americans age 20 or older have diabetes. But many, almost one-third, don’t know they have the disease and are at risk for vision loss and other health problems. Diabetic eye disease, a group of eye problems that affects those with diabetes, includes diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma. The most common of these is diabetic retinopathy, which affects 5.3 million Americans age eighteen and older.
Diabetic retinopathy is a potentially blinding condition in which the blood vessels inside the retina become damaged from the high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes. This leads to the leakage of fluids into the retina and the obstruction of blood flow. This may cause vision loss.
More than one-third of those diagnosed with diabetes do not receive the recommended vision care and are at risk for blindness. Often early symptoms are unnoticed; therefore your vision may not be affected until the disease is severe and less easily treatable. Once you are diagnosed with diabetes, schedule a complete dilated eye examination at least once a year with an Ophthalmologist.
Make an appointment promptly if you experience blurred vision and/or floaters that:
Affect only one eye
Last more than a few days
Are not associated with a change in blood sugar
In advanced cases of diabetic retinopathy, laser treatment has been shown to reduce the chance of severe vision loss and blindness. This surgery does not cure diabetic retinopathy or restore vision that has already been lost, nor does it prevent future vision loss, especially if diabetes or blood pressure is not well controlled. Diabetes can also affect your vision by causing cataracts and glaucoma. If you have diabetes, you may get cataracts at a younger age and your chances of developing glaucoma are doubled.
Early diagnosis of diabetes and most importantly, maintaining strict control of blood sugar and hypertension through diet, exercise and medication can help to reduce your risk of developing eye diseases associated with diabetes.