Diabetes and vision loss
November is Diabetic Eye Disease Month. Did you know? People with diabetes can have a wide array of long-term health issues, including vision problems.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in American adults.
This condition is a common complication for those with diabetes. It progressively weakens the tiny blood vessels in and around the retina, the light-sensing layer of tissue at the back of the eye.
“The symptoms are sometimes minimal and may not show until it is at the most advanced stages,” says Dr. Richard Multack, ophthalmologist on staff at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill.
Dr. Multack says the symptoms can include:
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty with color perception
- Dark or empty areas in your vision
The risks of diabetic retinopathy are reduced through disease management, he says, that includes good control of blood sugar, blood pressure and lipid abnormalities.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the longer you’ve had diabetes, the more likely you are to have retinopathy. And nearly everyone with Type 1 diabetes will eventually have a form of retinopathy. The ADA says that most people with Type 2 diabetes will also get it. But the retinopathy that destroys vision, proliferative retinopathy, is far less common.
“Early diagnosis and treatment reduces the risk of vision loss,” Dr. Multack says.
The CDC reports that as many as 50 percent of patients are not getting their eyes examined or are diagnosed too late for treatment to be effective.
“Diabetic patients in particular are at high risk for not only retinopathy but for other eye conditions such as cataracts and retinal detachment. I can’t stress enough that diagnosing and treating any of these eye conditions in their earliest stages will increase the likelihood of better results,” Dr. Multack says.
Dr. Multack urges patients, in particular diabetics, to see their eye care professional at least once a year for a dilated eye exam. A regular eye chart exam will not detect retinopathy, he says. Only optometrists and ophthalmologists can detect the signs of retinopathy with specialized tests.
If you live in the Chicago-area, learn more about diabetes on Tuesday, November 19 from 9 a.m. to noon at Advocate South Suburban Hospital for a free diabetes health fair. In partnership with the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois, the event will include free screenings for blood glucose, blood pressure, BMI and urinalysis.
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