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Early Detection is Crucial for Diabetes-Related Eye Problems

Diabetes is the leading cause of adult blindness in the United States. About 30% of the 25 million diabetics in the US have diabetic eye disease. That figure represents a lot of people who need to understand their disease.

Diabetic eye disease begins when chronically high blood sugar levels damage the tiny blood vessels in the retina. This gradual painless process goes unnoticed until vision loss occurs. Early-stage damage from diabetes is called non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR). Annual eye exams will detect these changes before eyesight becomes affected.

When leakage of blood and fluid into the retina occurs, eyesight becomes affected. If unchecked, further compromise of the retinal circulation may cause proliferative retinopathy (PDR). This potentially devastating complication of diabetes can cause severe vision loss and blindness.

A variety of treatments for both NPDR and PDR are quite helpful in limiting further retinal damage and improving eyesight. In fact over the last 30 years, the likelihood of blindness in Type I (juvenile diabetics) has decreased almost 60%.

Many diabetics also have high blood pressure and hyperlipidemia (elevated cholesterol and/or triglycerides). Maintaining good diabetic and blood pressure control along with controlling lipids lowers the risk of retinopathy development and/or worsening.

The message for all diabetics is plain and simple:

• Adequate control of blood sugar, blood pressure and lipids is critical in preventing diabetic retinopathy and vision loss.
• Annual eye exams should be part of every diabetics plan of care. Are you one of the 40% of diabetics who don’t have annual checkup?

January 27, 2016