Far too many people are not aware that diabetes can lead to blindness. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in individuals under 75. One of the most serious complications of diabetes is retinal damage caused by increased pressure in the blood vessels of the eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy. This condition 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 United States in the past ten years. This number is expected to reach 11 million cases by 2030.
Early on, diabetic retinopathy is often asymptomatic. When the pressure in the retinal blood vessels increases they start to leak resulting in permanent damage to the retina. This damage can cause vision loss and when not treated, blindness.
Because symptoms are often not seen until vision is already at risk it is crucial to have a yearly comprehensive eye exam if you are diabetic. If you have diabetes 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 your optometrist. Diabetes also increases the risk of developing glaucoma and cataracts.
All diabetic eye diseases are more damaging when blood sugar levels are uncontrolled. Carefully monitoring your diabetes through diet, exercise and staying healthy and yearly eye exams is the best defense for preventing vision loss.
This month, spread awareness of the risks of diabetic eye disease and speak to your optometrist if you have any questions. In this case, knowledge really is the key to healthy vision.