Diabetes and the Eye

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The Importance of Eye Care for Diabetics

America has a problem with diabetes, and it’s getting worse. And that means serious problems for many people’s eyesight.

The Hard Facts

Consider these sobering statistics from the American Diabetes Association and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  1. Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes.
  2. Another 79 million have prediabetes, putting them at risk for type 2 diabetes.
  3. One in three adults in the U.S. could have diabetes by 2050 if current trends continue
According to the National Eye Institute, diabetes is now the leading cause of blindness among working-age Americans


And, unfortunately, there’s more…

Diabetes is now the leading cause of blindness among working-age Americans, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI). And diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of new cases of legal blindness among adults ages 20 to 74, according to the CDC. Also, recent research sponsored by NEI and Prevent Blindness America (PBA) found that 7.7 million Americans age 40 and older are now affected by diabetic retinopathy, up from 4.1 million in 2000.

For these reasons, the American Diabetes Association has designated November as American Diabetes Month to increase awareness of the dangers of diabetes, and PBA has declared the month Diabetic Eye Disease Month.




Diabetic retinopathy symptoms include blurred vision or poor night vision and partial/significant vision loss


What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is diabetes-related damage to blood vessels that nourish the light-sensitive retina of the eye. This damage can occur from either type 1 or
type 2 diabetes, and the longer you have the disease, the greater your risk for vision problems. In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy has no symptoms. But as the condition progresses, the retina become swollen and blood vessels begin to leak fluid and blood into the interior of the eye, causing symptoms that include:

  • Blurred vision and/or poor night vision
  • Spots floating in your vision
  • Darks streaks that block your vision
  • Partial or significant vision loss

Though there are treatments that can help limit vision loss from diabetic retinopathy, early detection and timely treatment are critical. But the best cure is prevention.

Encourage patients to schedule routine physical exams that include testing to rule out diabetes or pre-diabetes


What You Can Do

First of all, it’s important to know that though obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, you don’t have to be significantly overweight to develop the condition. Popular actor Tom Hanks’ recent announcement that he’s been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is proof of that. This month, during American Diabetes Month and Diabetic Eye Disease Month, make a point to actively encourage all patients and customers you come in contact with to:

  1. Schedule a routine physical exam that includes a blood test to rule out diabetes or pre-diabetes.
  2. Have a dilated eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist to rule out early signs of diabetic eye disease.

It’s that simple.

By helping people become more aware of the dangers of diabetes and take preventative steps to avoid the disease and its complications, you’ll be helping
others enjoy a greater quality of life…and you just might save someone’s eyesight.

Resources for your patients

Visit the American Diabetes Association website for more information and tools for your patients including risk tests, recipes and healthy living guides.

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