The subject of diabetes seems to be everywhere these days—in the news, on social media, even on talk shows. In fact, 26 million people have diabetes, and this number is increasing, putting more people at risk for health complications. If you or someone in your family has diabetes, you should talk to them about diabetic eye disease, one of the complications of diabetes.
Diabetic eye disease includes cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy—the most common form of the disease. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in adults 20–74 years of age. More than 800,000 African Americans suffer from diabetic retinopathy and the number will likely reach 1.2 million by 2030. The number of sufferers from all nationalities is expected to reach more than 11 million by the year 2030, research shows.
While everyone who has diabetes can get diabetic eye disease, African Americans are at higher risk of losing vision or going blind from it.
“The longer a person has diabetes, the greater is his or her risk of developing diabetic eye disease,” said Dr. Paul A. Sieving, a medical doctor and Ph. D. who serves as director of the National Eye Institute (NEI). “If you have diabetes, be sure to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Don’t wait until you notice an eye problem to have an exam, because vision that is lost cannot be restored.”
Unfortunately, diabetic eye disease often has no early warning signs. But the good news you can share with your family is that it can be detected early and treated before vision loss occurs.
“In fact, with early detection, timely treatment and appropriate follow-up care, people with diabetes can reduce their risk of severe vision loss by 95 percent,”said Dr. Suber Huang, chair of the Diabetic Eye Disease Subcommittee for NEI’s National Eye Health Education Program.
Research has also shown that when people with diabetes have good control of their blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, they can help delay getting diabetic eye disease, or slow its progress.
In addition to having annual comprehensive dilated eye exams, people with diabetes should keep on TRACK, NEI experts said: Take your medications; Reach and maintain a healthy weight; Add physical activity to your daily routine; Control your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol; and Kick the smoking habit.
Family matters. So if you or someone in your family has diabetes, set your sight on healthy vision. Schedule a comprehensive dilated eye exam immediately.
For more information on diabetic eye disease and tips on finding an eye care professional and financial assistance for eye care, visit
http://www.nei.nih.gov/diabetes or call the NEI at 301–496–5248.