Diabetes and Your Vision
Has your doctor told you that your blood sugar is high and you may be diabetic? Are you tempted to ignore it, thinking you might “have a touch of sugar?” Please don’t. Diabetes is a potentially disabling disease with the ability to affect your vision, sometimes causing blindness, as well as loss of limbs or even death.
According to the 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 29.1 million Americans have diabetes – meaning almost one in 10 Americans are diabetic. Of those, slightly more than one in four remain undiagnosed.
The prevalence of diabetes increases among older people. In fact, about 25% of Americans over the age of 65 have diabetes. The prevalence is also higher among certain races with Hispanics, non-Hispanic blacks, and American Indians/Alaska Natives having the highest occurrence.
Diabetes can affect almost any part of the human body and lead to serious complications, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, lower limb amputation, and even blindness. Fortunately, many of these complications can be reduced or avoided with good blood sugar control. Conditions like diabetic eye disease, kidney disease, and nerve pain are much less likely to occur in diabetic patients who are able to always keep their blood glucose levels in the normal range.
For example, there is a long term measure of blood glucose level that your doctor will check called the hemoglobin A1C. Every 1% drop in that blood test results in a 40% drop in the risk of developing diabetic eye disease. Therefore, the most effective way to reduce these risks is by effective control of blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol levels.
It is well known that early detection and treatment of these conditions can prevent progression. To help with early detection of diabetic eye disease, at Ludwick Eye Center we perform thorough eye exams that include dilation of the pupil. Dilating drops enlarge the pupil enough to allow highly detailed views of the back of the eye. We carefully examine internal eye structures like the retina, optic nerve, and blood vessels and looking for symptoms like internal bleeding and weak blood vessels. These are signs of something called diabetic retinopathy, which is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults aged 20 to 74 in the United States. The presence of diabetic retinopathy increases your risk of blindness and indicates the likelihood that diabetes is causing damage to other organs like the kidneys. A dilated eye examination can uncover blinding eye disease that can be effectively treated. It can also help your primary doctor or endocrinologist more effectively manage other potential complications of diabetes.
If you have diabetes, please take good care of yourself. Stop smoking. See your doctor to control your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Help protect your vision by having a dilated eye exam at least once a year (more often if you are found to have diabetic retinopathy). At Ludwick Eye Center, we are experienced and caring. We will be pleased to help you stay healthy by providing all your needed eye care services.
James Grove, O.D. – June 2016