November is National Diabetic Eye Disease Month. Unfortunately, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working-age Americans. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, nearly 29 million Americans over the age of 20 have diabetes, but one-third of those do not have symptoms or know that they are at risk for vision loss.
Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that are caused by diabetes, such as, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. The most common of these is diabetic retinopathy, which affects nearly half of those diagnosed!
Diabetic retinopathy is a potentially blinding condition in which the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensing layer of tissue in the back of the eye that provides vision, swell and leak fluid. Sometimes new vessels can form across the retina and cause bleeding in the eye which blocks vision. Damage is typically associated with high sugar levels. There are often no symptoms associated with the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, and vision may not be noticeably affected until the disease is severe and damage has already occurred.
People with diabetes are also at higher risk for developing cataracts, clouding of the lens, at an earlier age. Additionally, diabetes can more than double your chances of developing glaucoma, which is elevated intraocular pressure that can lead to vision loss.
Early diagnosis of diabetes can help reduce your risk of developing eye disease associated with diabetes. It is important to maintain annual dilated eye exams with your doctor at Atlantic Eye Institute to help prevent vision loss. If you have diabetes, maintaining control of blood sugar through diet and exercise can help reduce your risk of developing diabetic eye diseases.