Diabetic eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy affect nearly 8 million Americans, with that number being projected to rise to 14 million by the year 2050. Diabetic retinopathy specifically is the most common cause of blindness among adults in the United States. Diabetic Eye Disease Month is all about making folks aware of the dangers of diabetic eye diseases, as well as increasing prevention of these diseases in hopes of fighting these statistics.
Diabetic retinopathy and its associated diabetic eye diseases like diabetic macular edema (DME), glaucoma and cataracts are all complications of the eye that are contracted as symptoms of diabetes. This happens when diabetes creates a chronic high blood pressure issue, as the high blood pressure is directly associated with damage to the blood vessels in the retina. This damage causes hemorrhaging of the blood vessels in the eye that distort vision, resulting in diabetic retinopathy.
Here are 4 more facts that will help raise awareness for Diabetic Eye Disease Month:
All Types Are At Risk
Diabetic eye diseases aren’t confined to a specific type of diabetes. Those with any type of diabetes can be affected by them.
The risk of developing a diabetic eye disease grows the longer you have diabetes, which means it is all the more important to schedule regular exams with your doctor if you have the condition. Studies show that between 40 and 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some form of diabetic retinopathy, even if they are not aware of it.
Early Stages Have No Symptoms
The early stages of diabetic retinopathy usually do not come with any noticeable symptoms. Often times, the disease develops unnoticed until it starts to affect your vision. The bleeding from your vessels will most likely cause floating spots in your vision. Sometimes these spots will clear up naturally, but without proper treatment the bleeding can result in permanent vision loss.
Dilated Eye Exams
While diabetic retinopathy often does not show symptoms until its later stages, comprehensive dilated eye exams can detect these diseases, even in its early stages.
Any dilated eye exam that includes dilation of the eye, a visual acuity test, a tonometry test that measures the pressure inside the eye, and an Optical Coherence Tomography, which is basically an ultrasound specifically for the eye, can help detect these eye conditions before they take over your vision.
Dilated eye exams are the best source of detection because it allows your eye doctor to thoroughly check your eye for leakage and bleeding of the blood vessels, swelling of the eye, increased pressure, or any damage to the nerve tissue, which can all be signs of diabetic retinopathy and its associated diseases. Because of the ability for these exams to detect these diseases, it is important that those with diabetes to schedule a dilated eye exam at least once a year, while those who already have diabetic retinopathy should schedule their appointments more frequently.
95% of Cases are Preventable
Finally, through early detection and comprehensive treatment, 95% of vision loss cases are preventable. Preventing blindness in these cases relies on the patient’s willingness to follow their doctor’s treatment plan. In addition to following the suggested treatment plan, those with diabetes can also increase the chance of prevention by following these useful tips:
- Take all prescribed medication
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid smoking
- Monitor blood pressure closely
- Receive regularly scheduled eye exams
If you are concerned about vision loss as a result of diabetes, do not wait! Talk to your eye doctor about a treatment plan today.