Compared with the general population, people with diabetes are 25 to 30 times more likely to lose their sight from retinopathy, cataracts or glaucoma.
Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults 20 to 74 years of age and affects 25.8 million people in the United States. Although there is no cure for diabetic eye disease, annual eye exams for diabetes patients are essential to help slow the progression of the disease.
"November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month and it marks an important time to spread the word about diabetic eye disease given how potentially damaging it is to eye health and vision," said Lisa Goodell, executive director of the Chautauqua Blind Association's Vision Rehabilitation Services. "Our goal is to work in concert with patients, their primary care physicians and the eye care professionals to help them avoid the complications of diabetic retinopathy. As part of Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month we are urging people with diabetes to have a dilated eye exam if they have not had one in the past year."
The longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy does not only affect people who have had diabetes for many years, it can also appear within the first year or two after the onset of the disease. Blood sugar levels can weaken blood vessels causing them to break down causing swelling, hemorrhages and lipid deposits that can ultimately lead to vision loss. Since there may not be any symptoms in the early stages of the disease people can help to reduce their risk of developing diabetic eye disease by seeing their eye care professional on a regular bases, not smoking, controlling their cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as working to eat a heart-healthy diet rich in fish, fruit and green leafy vegetables and exercising.