Diabetes is a metabolic disease in which the body either does not produce enough insulin to use glucose effectively or does not respond normally to the insulin that it does make. Approximately 29 million Americans are affected by diabetes, and there are millions of new cases diagnosed each year. It is estimated that by the year 2030, diabetes will affect more than 550 million people worldwide.
Over time, diabetes causes many problems in the body such as poor circulation, vascular damage, tissue damage and deterioration of the retina. Many complications of diabetes can be managed by monitoring blood glucose levels, controlling blood pressure and making regular visits to your primary care physician and eye doctor.
Diabetic retinopathy is a common disease that can develop when diabetics do not adequately manage their disease. Studies show that within three years of diagnosis of diabetes, 28 percent of adults develop diabetic retinopathy and 4 percent will develop advanced diabetic retinopathy. In fact, diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of new-onset blindness in the United States. Unfortunately, there are few warning signs of diabetic retinopathy in the early stages, but common symptoms may include:
- Blurry vision
- Distorted vision
- Double vision
- Eye floaters
- Near vision problems
- Shadows in your visual field
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important that you visit your eye doctor right away. Everyone should get a comprehensive eye exam each year to maintain eye health, but this is especially imperative for diabetics and individuals who have diabetic retinopathy. Vision loss associated with diabetic retinopathy is not always reversible, so the best way to protect your vision is to stay current with your eye exams. About 90 percent of diabetes-related vision loss can be prevented with regular comprehensive eye exams and management of blood sugar levels (Source: US News).
If you have diabetes, you can take these steps to preserve your vision:
- Take all medications as prescribed by your doctor
- Reach and maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid smoking
- Exercise regularly
- Control your ABC’s—Average blood sugar, Blood pressure, Cholesterol levels
Most importantly, find a licensed eye care specialist in your area that will care for your vision needs. Make an appointment each year for a comprehensive eye exam, and schedule a visit if you ever notice changes in your vision. Diabetes and vision loss do not have to go hand-in-hand, so follow the steps to preserve your vision and prevent diabetic-related vision loss!