Approximately 16 million people in the United States have diabetes and one-third of them do not know it. People with diabetes are 25 times more likely to become blind than people without diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of new blindness among adults. Each year 12,000 to 24,000 people lose their sight because of diabetes. By detecting and treating diabetic eye disease early through annual, dilated eye exams, people with diabetes can preserve their sight.
Diabetic Eye Disease is a group of eye problems that affects those with diabetes, including diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma. The most common of these is diabetic retinopathy, which affects 5.3 million Americans over the age of 18.
Diabetic retinopathy is a potentially vision threatening condition in which the blood vessels inside the retina become damaged from the high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes. These damaged vessels can then leak, bleed or scar and cause retinal detachment, hemorrhaging or macular edema, conditions than can damage vision.
More that one-third of those diagnosed with diabetes do not receive the recommended vision care and may be at risk for blindness. Because there are often no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, vision may not be affected until the disease becomes severe.
Once diagnosed with diabetes, schedule a complete dilated eye examination with your doctor at least once a year. Make an appointment promptly if you experience blurred vision and 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 loss of vision. The surgery does not cure diabetic retinopathy, 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 effective control of blood sugar and hypertension through diet, exercise and medication can help to reduce your risk of developing eye diseases associated with diabetes.