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November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month

Believe it or not, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 10% of the American population has diabetes! One in four seniors has type 2 diabetes.  If we add in pre-diabetics the figure rises to 100 million U.S. adults. That’s almost 30% of the U.S. population.

Diabetic eye disease comprises a group of eye problems including diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts and glaucoma. About one-third of diabetics have diabetic eye disease with 6-8% having severe sight-threatening disease. Thanks to the tremendous advances in the treatment of diabetes over the last generation, the likelihood of serious sight-threatening complications from diabetes has decreased dramatically.

As was noted in a recent medical article, ‘‘The marked reduction in…retinopathy [eye disease] and vision impairment over the past few decades…have resulted from the introduction of new devices for self-monitoring of blood-glucose levels and the administration of insulin, new medications (e.g., statins and hypoglycemic agents), surgical interventions (including vitrectomy), an increased awareness of the need for intensive control of glycemia [blood sugar] and blood pressure and the implementation of educational and screening programs.”

In other words, control of blood sugar, blood pressure and lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) with medications along with proper management of eye disease is sight saving and life-enhancing. Weight control, diet and exercise, as we all know, play a key role in achieving these goals. 

People with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts at an earlier age than those without diabetes. Also, diabetes doubles the chances of having glaucoma, which is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and can lead to vision loss and blindness if left untreated.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that diabetics receive a dilated eye exam annually regardless of age, duration of disease and type of diabetes. Dilation is done with eye drops and allows the eye doctor to clearly see the back of the eye, the part affected by diabetes.

Dr. Stephen H. Uretsky is a board-certified ophthalmologist with 35 years of practice experience who specializes in comprehensive eye care. Coastal Jersey Eye Center features an optical center, Classic Eyewear, which provides eyeglass frames and lenses to suit every style and budget. For more information on eye exams or to schedule an appointment, please call the Linwood office at 609.927.3373 or 609.465.7926 for the Cape May Court House office. Visit online at