Even many people with the disease are not aware that diabetes increases the risk of vision loss. Diabetes is the number one cause of total vision loss in people between the ages of 20 and 74 according to recent studies by the NIH. One of the risks of diabetes is retinal damage caused by an increase in pressure in the blood vessels of the eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy causes severe vision impairment and even blindness. Anyone with the disease is at risk and it is projected to affect 11 million people by 2030.
Early on, this condition is often asymptomatic. When the pressure in the retinal blood vessels increases they begin to leak resulting in permanent damage to the retina. This damage can cause vision loss and when not treated, blindness.
If you are diabetic 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 make sure to see an eye doctor. In addition to diabetic retinopathy, diabetics are at increased risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma.
There are effective treatments to slow the progression of diabetic eye diseases and stop further loss of sight resulting from diabetes, but the disease must be diagnosed early. In addition to making sure that you have a comprehensive eye exam annually if you are diabetic, controlling your blood sugar levels is vital to keeping your eyes healthy. Keep your blood sugar levels at normal limits and monitor and control your blood pressure. Ensure that you exercise and maintain a healthy diet and refrain from smoking.
This month, spread awareness of the risks of diabetic retinopathy and consult with your eye doctor if you have any questions. It could mean the difference between a life of sight and one of darkness.