November is Diabetes Awareness Month, a good time to learn and do something about the possible effects of this disease that affects more than 25 million people in the U.S.
Despite its prevalence, millions of Americans don't even know they have diabetes, so awareness and screening are extremely important. The fact is, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death among Americans, and it can cause a host of complications including several types of eye problems. Diabetic eye disease has no warning signs. Finding and treating the disease early, before it causes vision loss or blindness, is the best way to control the blinding conditions that people with diabetes may develop. These include:
- Cataracts, a gradual clouding of the lens of the eye that requires the natural lens to be removed and replaced with an artificial lens. Although anyone can get a cataract, people with diabetes often develop them faster, and at a younger age.
- Glaucoma, excess pressure in the eye that can cause irreversible damage to the optic nerve.
- Diabetic retinopathy, the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in working-age Americans. Diabetic retinopathy causes damage to the blood vessels in the back of the eye.
If you have diabetes
- Get a dilated eye exam once a year early detection can prevent 95% of vision loss caused by diabetic retinopathy.
- Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
- Work with your doctor to control your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
- If you smoke, quit.
To learn more about the ways that diabetes can affect your vision and what you can do, visit http://www.nei.nih.gov/diabetes/