If You Have Diabetes, Set Your Sight on Healthy Vision

If you have diabetes, your doctors most likely have told you to keep your blood sugar under control through diet, exercise, and proper medication. But did you know that you also need a dilated eye exam at least once a year?

A dilated eye exam is when an eye care professional dilates, or widens, the pupil to check the retina in the back of the eye for signs of damage.

All people with diabetes, type 1 and 2, are at risk for vision loss, but certain groups are at higher risk: African Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and Hispanics/Latinos.

The longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk of diabetic eye disease, which includes the following:

• Cataract (clouding of the lens of the eye)

• Diabetic Retinopathy (damage to the retina)

• Glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve)

In November, when National Diabetes Month was observed in the United States, the National Eye Health Education Program of the National Eye Institute recommended that all people who have diabetes reduce the risk of vision loss from the disease by having a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.

“Half of all people with diabetes don’t get annual dilated eye exams. People need to know that about 95 percent of severe vision loss from diabetic retinopathy can be prevented through early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up,” said Dr. Suber Huang, chair of the Diabetic Eye Disease Subcommittee for NEHEP.

“Diabetic eye disease often has no early warning signs but can be detected early and treated before vision loss occurs,” said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of NEI. “Don’t wait until you notice an eye problem to have a dilated eye exam, because vision that is lost often cannot be restored.”

In fact, diabetic retinopathy, the most common form of diabetic eye disease, is the leading cause of blindness in American adults ages 20-74. According to NEI, 7.7 million people ages 40 and older have diabetic retinopathy, and this number will likely increase to approximately 11 million people by 2030.

If you have diabetes, get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. NEHEP also recommends you keep your health on track by:

• Taking your medications.

• Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.

• Adding physical activity to your day.

• Controlling your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.

• Kicking the smoking habit.

These steps will help you keep your diabetes under control and help protect against diabetic eye disease.

For more information on diabetic eye disease, financial assistance for eye care, and how you can maintain healthy vision, visit www.nei.nih.gov/diabetes or call NEI at 301-496-5248.


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