Too many people are not aware that diabetes can lead to blindness. Diabetes is the primary cause of blindness in adults between the ages of 20 and 74 according to recent studies by the NIH. One of the risks of diabetes is when the retina is damaged by an increase in pressure in the blood vessels of the eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most serious complications of the disease and it has affected over 3.7 million people in America since 2002. This number is expected to reach 11 million cases by 2030.
Diabetic retinopathy is often unnoticed until considerable damage is done. When the pressure in the blood vessels in the retina builds up they begin to leak resulting in permanent damage to the retina. This can cause vision loss and when not treated, blindness.
Because symptoms are often not seen until vision is already at risk it is important to see your optometrist annually to perform a comprehensive eye exam if you are diabetic. Warning signs of diabetic retinopathy include fluctuating vision, eye floaters and spots, the development of a shadow in your field of view, blurred vision, corneal abnormalities, seeing double, eye pain and near vision problems that have nothing to do with presbyopia. Diabetes also increases the risk of developing glaucoma and cataracts.
With early diagnosis and treatment, we can stop loss of eyesight. In addition to making sure that you have a regular eye exam annually if you are diabetic, keeping your glucose levels under control is vital to keeping your eyes healthy. Keep your glucose levels within the proper range and monitor and control your blood pressure. Ensure that you exercise and maintain a healthy diet and refrain from smoking.
If you or a loved one has diabetes, make sure you are informed about the risks of diabetic eye disease and consult with your optometrist to discuss questions or concerns. In this case, ignorance could cost you your vision