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National Diabetes Month: Be Aware

Too many people are not aware that diabetes increases the risk of vision threatening eye damage. Research by the National Institute of Health (NIH) indicates that diabetes is the primary cause of complete vision loss in individuals between 20 and 74. One of the risks of diabetes is retinal damage caused by an increase in pressure in the blood vessels of the eye, which 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, diabetic retinopathy is often asymptomatic. When the pressure in the retinal blood vessels increases they begin to leak causing permanent damage to the retina. This leads to vision loss and when not treated, blindness.

Because symptoms are often not seen until significant damage is done it is important to book an annual diabetic eye exam if you have diabetes. Symptoms of 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.

All diabetic eye diseases are more damaging when glucose levels are uncontrolled. Carefully monitoring your diabetes through diet, exercise and staying healthy and annual eye exams is the best defense for keeping your eyes healthy.

If you or a loved one is diabetic, make sure you are informed about preventing 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.