People with diabetes are at risk of losing one of the most precious of their senses: sight.
The National Eye Institute reports that about half of the people with diabetes in America have early stage diabetic retinopathy and one quarter have serious retinal disease. Each year, about 65,000 Americans progress to proliferative retinopathy, the most sight-threatening stage of the disease. As many as 25,000 people go blind each year from diabetic retinopathy.
“People unnecessarily lose their vision yearly because of diabetes complications that can often be prevented through early detection and timely treatment,” said Robert Layman, O.D. and Chair of the American Optometric Association’s Diabetes Eye Care Project Team.
Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may face as a complication(s) of the disease. All can cause severe vision loss or, even, blindness.
People with diabetes are at higher risks for:
- Diabetic retinopathy, a condition occurring in persons with diabetes, which causes progressive damage to the retina, the light sensitive lining at the back of the eye.
- Cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s lens, which blocks or changes how light passes into the eye.
- Glaucoma, which is an increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision. A person with diabetes is nearly twice as likely to get glaucoma as other adults.
- Macular edema, a swelling of the retina causing blurred vision in the middle or to the side of the central visual field.
- Retinal detachment is one of the most common causes of blindness in diabetes which occurs when newly growing blood vessels pull the retina from the back of the eye.
According to Michael Duenas, O.D. and health scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Diabetes Translation, “patients suffering from diabetic retinopathy may not notice any changes in their vision, especially during the early treatable stages of the disease, this fact emphasizes the importance of all individuals with diabetes having yearly dilated eye examinations by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.”
Dr. Layman concurs, “Individuals should consider an eye exam [as] the first line of detection for this serious disease and its complications. Sometimes the very first signs of diabetes can be diagnosed during a dilated eye exam in which drops are put into the eyes.”