(ARA) – Diabetic eye disease can cause as many as 25,000 new cases of blindness every year. People with diabetes are 25 times more likely to become blind than those without diabetes. Yet the only way to diagnose early signs of diabetic eye disease is through a yearly dilated eye exam
November is National Diabetes Month and the National Eye Institute is emphasizing the importance of maintaining healthy vision.
One of the most frightening things about diabetic eye disease is that there are no early warning signs and no symptoms, said Dr. Paul Sieving, director of the National Eye Institute, one of the Federal governments National Institutes of Health. People with diabetic eye disease do not realize that their eyesight is slowly deteriorating. And because there are no symptoms and vision seems to be normal, people with diabetes might not make it a health priority to visit an eye care professional.
Postponing annual dilated eye exams could lead to trouble later on, when diabetes begins to affect a persons eyesight. Eyesight lost from diabetes cannot be restored. Yet in about 90 percent of those who would otherwise become blind, the early detection of diabetic eye disease through annual dilated eye exams, as well as laser surgery when needed, has helped preserve vision.
Nearly half of the nations estimated 16 million people with diabetes will develop some degree of diabetic retinopathy, the most common form of diabetic eye disease. Diabetic retinopathy damages the tiny blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. Other eye problems that can develop in people with diabetes include cataract and glaucoma.
Dr. Sieving said that the longer a person has diabetes, the more likely it is that person will develop diabetic retinopathy. However, studies have shown that people with diabetes who keep their blood sugar levels as normal as possible slow the onset and progression of diabetic retinopathy and lessen the need for laser surgery. This may also help reduce other complications from the disease, such as kidney disease, stroke, and nerve damage.
A free brochure, Dont Lose Sight of Diabetic Eye Disease, is available by writing to Diabetic Eye Disease, 2020 Vision Place, Bethesda, MD, 20892-3655 or visiting the NEI Web site at www.nei.nih.gov.
Courtesy of ARA Content