Diabetic eye disease is a silent killer of vision; in its early stages, there are no symptoms. If not detected early, it can lead to permanent vision loss and even blindness. That’s why November is dedicated to diabetic eye disease awareness.
Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among working-age Americans. About 29 million Americans ages 20 and older have diabetes, but almost one-third aren’t aware they have it and are at risk for vision loss and other health problems.
Diabetes can lead to cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy affects 40-45 percent of Americans with diabetes and is a potentially blinding condition. With this disease, the blood vessels in the retina become damaged from the high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes. This allows fluids to leak into the retina and prevent blood flow, leading to vision loss and blindness.
To detect diabetic retinopathy early, you should have a yearly, comprehensive dilated eye exam. If you experience blurred vision or see floaters that affect only one eye, last more than a few days or are not associated with a change in blood sugar, make an appointment to see your eye doctor immediately.
Diabetic retinopathy cannot be cured, but there are treatments that can reduce or halt the loss of vision. For this to be possible, the condition must be detected early. Do not wait until you notice an issue with your eyesight to make an appointment.
In addition to diabetic retinopathy, people with diabetes are 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts. Diabetics develop cataracts at a younger age, and they progress much faster than normal. People with diabetes are also 40 percent more likely to suffer from glaucoma than those without it. Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds in the eye, pinching blood vessels that carry blood to the retina and optic nerve. Vision is gradually lost because the retina and nerve are damaged.
The longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk of developing diabetic eye disease. The future of your vision is in your hands: protect it!
To make an appointment, call Illinois Eye Center at (309) 243-2400.