More than 30.3 million adults in the United States have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also indicates that 84.1 million Americans have prediabetes, though non-treatment of prediabetes often leads to type 2 diabetes within 5 years. In addition to affecting blood sugar levels, diabetes can also have devastating effects on your eyes.
Diabetes is a disease that interrupts the body’s ability to produce or use insulin effectively to control blood sugar (glucose) levels. When elevated for prolonged periods of time, high blood sugar can cause damage in many parts of the body. Diabetes can damage the heart, kidneys, and blood vessels – including blood vessels in the eyes. Damage to these blood vessels is what causes diabetes-related vision loss.
The key to preventing permanent vision loss is early detection. The CDC states that about 90% of vision loss due to diabetes can be prevented. Regular comprehensive eye exams are integral to catching eye diabetes-related eye disease. Comprehensive eye exams should occur prior to the onset of vision loss and should be performed annually. Studies have shown that up to 60% of diabetes patients do not get eye exams as often as recommended, putting them at a much higher risk of permanent partial or full vision loss.
Diabetic eye disease is a blanket term for specific diabetes-related eye diseases. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes increase the risk of many eye conditions.
The eye diseases most commonly associated with diabetes are:
Those with diabetes should follow the instructions of their eye care provider to avoid permanent vision loss.
Here are some general guidelines to follow:
Maintaining near-normal glucose levels and near-normal blood pressure lowers the risk of retinopathy developing and progressing. As a result, you should keep at the top of your mind the importance of maintaining good glycosylated hemoglobin levels, serum lipids, and blood pressure.
Dr. Akers is a primary care optometrist with the Marietta Eye Clinic. She also specializes in ocular diseases and works with eye surgeons to provide ocular surgery co-management. She serves the Kennestone and Towne Lake offices. Dr. Akers received her doctor of optometry from the University of Alabama School of Optometry. She completed an ocular disease residency with the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and a low vision rehabilitation residency with the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital Blind Rehabilitation Center. She is a member of the American Academy of Optometry. Read more about Dr. Akers here.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. It describes itself as a “global community of 32,000 medical doctors who protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public.” Its website is a great resource to learn more about how to care for your eyes.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) describes itself as the leading authority on quality care and an advocate for our nation’s health, representing more than 44,000 doctors of optometry (O.D.), optometric professionals, and optometry students.
Diabetic Eye Disease
New CDC report: More than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes
Screening for Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic Retinopathy PPP – Updated 2017
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