According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 29.1 million Americans are living with diabetes, a disease that can cause widespread health problems such as heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. People diagnosed with diabetes are also at an increased risk for certain eye conditions and diseases. In fact, diabetic eye diseases are among the leading causes of vision loss among adults. Yet, many cases could be prevented with early detection and prevention.
November is Diabetic Eye Disease Month, a campaign designed to raise awareness on the topic, including early detection and prevention treatments. Read on to learn more about diabetic eye diseases and how you can reduce your risk for vision loss.
The most common diabetes-related eye condition is diabetic retinopathy, which currently affects more than 5 million Americans age 40 or older, according to the National Eye Institute. The condition occurs when unusually high levels of blood sugar start to clog or damage blood vessels within the eye’s retina. This in turn damages light-sensitive cells necessary for good vision. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness. Other symptoms include eye floaters, distorted vision and eye pain. However, most symptoms occur in the later, more serious stages of the condition, making early detection difficult.
Diabetes also increases the risk for common eye diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma. Research shows diabetics develop cataracts at an earlier age than non-diabetics. People with diabetes are also nearly twice as likely to develop glaucoma as those who do not have diabetes. Fortunately, there are several treatments available to prevent vision loss related to cataracts and glaucoma. Cataract surgery, in particular, is one the most effective and safest procedures performed today to restore vision.
If you are diabetic, the best way to reduce your risk of developing any diabetic eye conditions is by controlling your diabetes. The National Eye Institute refers to this as keeping your health on “TRACK”:
Take your medications.
Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Add physical activity to your daily routine.
Control your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol.
Kick the smoking habit.
It is also highly recommended that you have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. A comprehensive exam allows your doctor to check your eyes for any early symptoms. An early diagnosis can drastically reduce your risk of vision loss and blindness.
If you have diabetes and are concerned about your vision, please contact Dr. Sandra Belmont of Belmont Eye Center today. Dr. Belmont can evaluate your overall eye health, including checking your eyes for symptoms and discussing with you appropriate preventive treatments. Schedule your personal appointment by calling our New York City office at (212) 486-2020.