Did you know that a diagnosis of diabetes puts you at risk for blindness? A recent study by the National Institute of Health (NIH) indicates that diabetes is the primary cause of complete vision loss among those aged 20 to 74 years old. One of the most serious complications of diabetes is when the retina is damaged 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 has affected over 3.7 million people in the United States since 2002.
Early on, this condition is often asymptomatic. Vision problems occur when the retinal blood vessels begin to leak fluid, oil and small amounts of blood. If the condition is not detected, blood vessels may become completely stopped up or new vessels may begin to form on the retina leading to permanent vision loss.
Symptoms of developing diabetic retinopathy include any kind of vision problems such as fluctuations, spots, shadows, double or blurred vision or pain. Diabetes also increases the risk of developing glaucoma and cataracts.
There are ways slow the progression of diabetic eye diseases and stop further vision loss resulting from diabetes, however early detection and treatment are essential. In addition to making sure to schedule a diabetic eye exam annually if you are diabetic, keeping your diabetes under control is essential to preserving your vision. Keep your blood sugar levels within the proper range and keep an eye on your blood pressure. Ensure that you exercise and maintain a healthy diet and refrain from smoking.
If you or a loved one has diabetes, be sure you are informed about the risks of diabetic eye disease and speak to your optometrist to discuss questions or concerns. It could mean the difference between a life of sight and one of darkness.