If you are one of over 34 million Americans who live with diabetes, you know that there are many things that can impact your health. Diabetes impacts multiple health systems but can deeply affect eyesight and eye health. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that diabetes is, unfortunately, the leading cause of new cases of blindness in patients over the age of eighteen. In addition, the longer that a patient lives with diabetes, they face higher risk of developing vision issues like diabetic retinopathy or cataracts. The wide scope of this impactful issue is why the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) has deemed November to be Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month. Here at Medical Eye Center, we believe in holistic care and understand how the disease of diabetes can play a crucial role in your eye health.
While these complications can most often affect older patients, they can affect younger people in their teens and twenties who also live with diabetes. The CDC also found that there are disparities in healthcare which make eye complications more prevalent in minority populations. Unfortunately, it was also found that less than 2/3 of diabetes patients visit an eye specialist annually, as recommended. These rates are even lower among children, and less than 50% of youths receive an eye exam within six years of their diagnosis. This is essential to note because, without comprehensive eye exams, diabetes patients face a high risk of diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is actually the leading cause of new-onset blindness among working adults, and if it isn’t caught in a timely manner, can be irreversible.
For aging Americans with diabetes, ophthalmic exams to screen for and treat eye diseases are the primary way to prevent progressive, worsening eyesight. In honor of this month, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) hopes to draw attention to the public health implications of diabetes, not just in the US, but throughout the globe. Although these statistics sound grim, there is good news. There are steps that you or your loved ones can take if you are living with diabetes or know someone who is:
Schedule a comprehensive eye exam annually: Be sure to find a qualified provider who understands the impacts of diabetes and blood sugars on eye health, and schedule your exams as recommended. Going the minimum amount once per year can help a specialist spot any problems in their early stages and thus help prevent additional complications.
Keep blood sugar levels in your target range: Understandably, stress, diet, and lifestyle can impact your blood sugars. Aiming to keep them within your target range can help your eyesight because high sugars can damage blood vessels within your eye. It can also cause problems with a fluctuating prescription making it hard for you to maintain the correct prescription strength.
Educate family and friends: If you are not someone living with this diabetes or the related eyesight challenges, you can still make a difference. Please encourage your family and friends to prioritize eye exams (with dilation) both financially and with their time. Additionally, you can help direct anyone you know to the DSMES services. Your healthcare doctor can refer you to these services to learn more about managing your diabetes and decreasing your risk of diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic eye disease is a critical issue for millions of diabetics, but you can help by getting timely treatment and quality care (or encouraging those you love to do the same). During this, Diabetes Eye Disease Awareness Month, join us by spreading the word about protecting your vision and sharing these important facts. In addition, you can schedule your first-time or recurring eye exam at Medical Eye Center by .