Even many individuals with the disease are not aware that diabetes can lead to vision threatening eye damage. Diabetes is the main cause of loss of sight in people 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 increased pressure in the blood vessels of the eye, which is called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy causes severe vision impairment and even blindness. Anyone with the disease is at risk and it has affected over 3.7 million people in the U.S. since 2002.
In its early stages, this condition often presents no noticeable symptoms. Loss of sight ultimately develops when the retinal blood vessels begin to leak. As the disease develops, blood vessels may be completely stopped up or additional vessels may form on the retina leading to irreparable loss of sight.
Since symptoms are often not seen until it is too late it is important to see your eye doctor once a year to perform a comprehensive eye exam if you are diabetic. If you are diabetic and you notice any sort of vision problems, such as fluctuations in eyesight, floaters, double vision, shadows or spots or any pain in your eye schedule a visit with an optometrist. Cataracts and glaucoma are also more common in individuals with diabetes than in the average population.
With early diagnosis and treatment, we can reduce vision loss. In addition to making sure to schedule a regular eye exam annually if you are diabetic, controlling your glucose levels is essential to your eye health. Keep your glucose levels within normal limits and monitor and control your blood pressure. Include exercise and proper nutrition in your lifestyle.
If you or a loved one is diabetic, be sure you know preventing diabetic eye disease and speak to your optometrist to discuss questions or concerns. In this case, knowledge really is the key to vision.