Diabetes is the leading cause of new blindness cases among adults ages 20-74, according to the American Diabetes Association. Because education and early detection are so vital to treating this disease and preventing vision loss, the month of November is dedicated as Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month to increase awareness.
According to a study by Everyday Health, less than half of Americans with diabetes understand the risk of vision loss from diabetic eye disease. Diabetic eye disease actually refers to a group of eye conditions that those with diabetes can experience, including:
- Diabetic retinopathy (retinal damage)
- Cataracts (a clouding of the eye’s lens)
- Glaucoma (optic nerve damage)
All of these eye conditions can result in partial or total blindness without treatment. In the U.S. today, approximately 8 million people suffer from diabetic retinopathy.
How Often Should I Get an Exam?
Everyone who has diabetes should have a comprehensive, dilated eye exam at least once every year. While anyone with diabetes is at risk of developing one of these conditions, African Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives and Hispanics with diabetes are at higher risk. The longer you’ve suffered from diabetes, the higher your risk of developing diabetic eye disease is.
The National Eye Health Education Program also recommends the following health tips:
- Take your medications as prescribed.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Incorporate physical activity into your daily life.
- Keep blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol under control.
- Stop smoking.