November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month
The American Diabetes Association estimates that almost 26 million people in the United States have diabetes. Of these, it is thought that 7 million are undiagnosed. A further 79 million people are thought to be at high risk for diabetes, sometimes called “prediabetes”. Diabetes can affect the entire body including the eye and it is the most common cause of blindness in adults aged 20-74.
The number one risk factor to developing eye problems from diabetes (called retinopathy) is the amount of time that a patient has diabetes. A very close second is how well the diabetes is controlled. When a patient first starts to develop retinopathy-they often have no symptoms and this is the time to diagnose the problem. If a patient starts to have vision problems, the retinopathy treatment is often aimed at preventing it from worsening and any vision lost may not be able to be recovered. A common misconception among patients is that they just need “stronger glasses”. Unfortunately, a glasses change is often ineffective when dealing with damage from diabetes.
All diabetics are recommended to have a dilated eye exam at least once a year. Depending on the results of that examination, your doctor may advise you to be seen more often. The best thing you can do to try and prevent vision problems is get your eyes checked regularly and follow your family doctor’s recommendations to keep your diabetes under control.