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November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month

Currently, there are 30 million Americans living with diabetes, a serious disease which can lead to visual impairment or blindness. About 68% of Americans with diabetes have been diagnosed with eye complications and diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among adults, according to the National Institutes of Health. In addition, as many as one in three U.S. adults could have diabetes by 2050 according to the Center for Disease Control. In addition, nearly half of Americans don’t know that diabetic eye diseases have visible symptoms, according to a 2018 American Optometric Association survey. More than one-third of respondents didn’t know a comprehensive eye exam is the only way to determine if a person’s diabetes will cause blindness. As we get older, there is a much higher risk of becoming diabetic and potentially developing a diabetic eye disease – especially if you have one or more of the other risk factors.

Types of Diabetic Eye Diseases

Chart showing chronic complications of diabetesDiabetic Retinopathy is caused by damage to the small blood vessels of the retina. It is the most common cause of diabetic vision loss and the leading cause of vision loss for adults in the U.S. This disease is harder to detect, which is why doctors recommend annual eye exams if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes. Some treatments for this disease include laser surgery, vitrectomy or chemical injections.

Diabetic Macular Edema is when fluid leaks into the center of the macula (the fovea), making it swell and blurring vision. It can occur at any stage of diabetic retinopathy. Possible treatments include laser surgery, drugs, and corticosteroid injections; however, glucose levels must be able to be maintained in the long-term.

Cataracts is a form of eye disease that typically develops slowly from protein build up inside of the eye, keeping light from passing through it. In most cases, it can be treated by an eye doctor with prescription glasses, contacts or cataract surgery.

Glaucoma is caused by damage to the optic nerve from an increase in pressure around the eye. This disease is typically passed down through genes and depending on severity, can be treated with eye drops, prescription medication, and/or laser treatments.

Here’s the good news! There are preventative measures you can take to reduce your chances of becoming diabetic and effective medicines and treatments for those already living with diabetes to prevent or treat diabetic eye diseases. If you are diabetic, or at a higher risk of becoming diabetic, schedule an appointment with an eye specialist today to see how you can become aware and prepared.