Approximately 16 million people in
the United States have diabetes and one-third of them do not know
it. People with diabetes are 25 times more likely to become blind
than people without diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of new
blindness among adults. Each year 12,000 to 24,000 people lose their
sight because of diabetes. By detecting and treating diabetic eye
disease early through annual, dilated eye exams, people with
diabetes can preserve their sight.
Diabetic retinopathy is a potentially vision threatening condition
in which the blood vessels inside the retina become damaged from the
high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes. These damaged
vessels can then leak, bleed or scar and cause retinal detachment,
hemorrhaging or macular edema, conditions than can damage vision.
More that one-third of those diagnosed with diabetes do not receive
the recommended vision care and may be at risk for blindness.
Because there are often no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic
retinopathy, vision may not be affected until the disease becomes
Once diagnosed with diabetes, schedule a complete dilated eye
examination with your doctor at least once a year. Make an
appointment promptly if you experience blurred vision and floaters
Affect only one eye
Last more than a few days
not associated with a change in blood sugar
In advanced cases of diabetic retinopathy, laser treatment has been
shown to reduce the loss of vision. The surgery does not cure
diabetic retinopathy, nor does it prevent future vision loss,
especially if diabetes or blood pressure is not well controlled.
Diabetes Can Affect Sight
If you have diabetes mellitus, your body does not use and store
sugar properly. High blood-sugar levels can damage blood vessels in
the retina, the nerve layer at the back of the eye that senses light
and helps to send images to the brain. The damage to retinal vessels
is referred to as diabetic retinopathy.
How Is Diabetic Retinopathy Diagnosed?
A medical eye examination is the best way to detect changes inside
your eye. An ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) can often diagnose and treat
serious retinopathy before you are aware of any vision problems.
How Is Diabetic Retinopathy Treated?
The best treatment is to prevent the development of retinopathy as
much as possible. Strict control of your blood sugar will
significantly reduce the long-term risk of vision loss from diabetic
retinopathy. If high blood pressure and kidney problems are present,
they need to be treated.
Vision Loss Is Largely Preventable
If you have diabetes, it is important to know that today, with
improved methods of diagnosis and treatment, a smaller percentage of
people who develop retinopathy have serious vision problems. Early
detection of diabetic retinopathy is the best protection against
loss of vision.
You can significantly lower your risk of vision loss by maintaining
strict control of your blood sugar and visiting your ophthalmologist
When to Schedule an Examination
When you are first diagnosed with diabetes, you should have your
within five years of the diagnosis if you are 29 years old or
within a few months of the diagnosis if you are 30 years old and