Even many people with the disease are not aware that diabetes can lead to vision threatening eye damage. The NIH reports that in individuals between 20 and 74, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness. One of the most serious complications of diabetes is when the retina is damaged by excessive pressure in the blood vessels of the eye, which is called diabetic retinopathy. This condition is one of the most incapacitating complications of the disease and it has affected over 3.7 million people in America since 2002.
In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy is often asymptomatic. When the pressure in the retinal blood vessels increases they start to leak resulting in irreparable damage to the retina. This damage leads to eventual blindness if it is not treated.
Since signs are often not seen until it is too late it is important to see your optometrist once a year to perform a comprehensive eye exam if you have diabetes. Symptoms of developing diabetic retinopathy include fluctuating vision, eye floaters and spots, shadows in the field of view, blurred vision, corneal abnormalities, double vision, eye pain and near vision problems that have nothing to do with presbyopia. Cataracts and glaucoma are also more common in individuals with diabetes than in the average population.
All diabetic eye diseases are more damaging when the disease is uncontrolled. Controlling your diabetes through diet, exercise and staying healthy and yearly eye exams is the best combination for preserving your eye sight.
This month, spread awareness of the risks of diabetic retinopathy and speak to your optometrist to discuss questions or concerns. In this case, knowledge really is the key to sight.