Did you know that having diabetes increases your chances of vision loss? Diabetes is the leading cause of loss of sight in people between 20 and 74 according to the NIH. One of the risks of diabetes is when the retina is damaged by excessive pressure in the blood vessels of the eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy causes severe vision impairment and even blindness. Anyone with the disease is at risk and it has affected over 3.7 million people in the United States since 2002. This number is expected to reach 11 million cases by 2030.
In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy is often asymptomatic. Vision problems eventually develop when the blood vessels in the retina begin to leak. When it is not treated, blood vessels may become blocked or new vessels may begin to form on the retina leading to permanent vision loss.
Since symptoms are often not seen until significant damage is done it is important to have a yearly comprehensive eye exam if you are diabetic. Warning signs of developing diabetic retinopathy include any kind of vision problems such as fluctuations, spots, shadows, double or blurred vision or pain. Diabetes also increases the risk of developing glaucoma and cataracts.
All diabetic eye diseases are more damaging when glucose levels are uncontrolled. Controlling your diabetes through diet, exercise and staying healthy and yearly eye exams is the best defense for keeping your eyes healthy.
This month, spread awareness of the risks of diabetic eye disease and consult with your optometrist if you have any questions. In this case, knowledge really is the key to sight.