November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month
Nearly 600,000 people in Hawaii suffer from prediabetes or diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes can lead to diabetic eye diseases, including cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy—the leading cause of new cases of blindness in U.S. adults. November is designated Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month by the American Academy of Ophthalmology to help raise awareness and “encourage those with diabetes to take proactive steps to protect their vision.”
Diabetes, both type 1 and 2, can cause major problems for your vision by increasing the risk and severity of eye diseases. Most people are familiar with cataract and glaucoma, but diabetic retinopathy is less known despite how common and dangerous it can be. It’s estimated that between 40 to 45 percent of those diagnosed with diabetes have diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy damages the retina’s blood vessels located at the back of the eye. It can cause blood vessels in the eye to swell and leak fluid or cause abnormal growth of blood vessels on the surface of the retina. Leaking fluid can lead to macular edema—swelling of the retina’s macular area that’s responsible for sharp, central vision.
If you suffer from diabetes, it’s important to manage your condition and get regular checkups to prevent health complications that can adversely affect your eyes. Get a comprehensive dilated eye exam from your eyecare professional at least once a year because diabetic eye diseases often go unnoticed until serious damage has already occurred. If you’ve been diagnosed with a diabetic eye disease, you may need more frequent eye exams.
Cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy can be treated with a variety of methods and surgical procedures, but early detection is key to protecting your vision. Proper treatment can be administered by an eyecare professional to help control the effects of diabetic eye diseases and prevent blindness.
If you have diabetes, protect your eyes by:
- Monitoring your blood sugar levels
- Keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol in check
- Taking insulin and other medications prescribed by your doctor
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Getting regular eye exams at least once a year