Over 34 million Americans have diabetes. About 1 in 5 of these individuals do not know they have diabetes. In addition there are nearly 90 million Americans with prediabetes.
Over time, diabetes damages the blood vessels in our body. This damage to our blood vessels is what leads to blindness, kidney problems and cardiovascular problems.
With a dilated eye exam, your eye doctor is able to get a firsthand view of the blood vessels in the back of your eye. This provides a view of how other blood vessels throughout the body may be affected by diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common form of diabetic eye disease. It is the leading cause of blindness in adults between the ages of 20-74. Once vision is lost, it often cannot be restored.
Diabetic retinopathy affects nearly 8 million Americans and is projected to grow to nearly 15 million Americans by 2030.
Risk factors for diabetic retinopathy include the following:
• Length of time a person has had diabetes – the longer a person has had diabetes, the greater the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy
• Poor control of blood sugar levels
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol
• Certain ethnicities – African-Americans, Hispanic and Native Americans are at an increased risk
Early detection, timely treatment and appropriate follow-up care can reduce one’s risk of severe vision loss by as much as 95%. Despite this, only about half of all diabetics get a yearly, dilated eye exam.
If you have diabetes, make sure yearly, dilated eye exams are part of your healthcare routine. Living with diabetes is a constant battle, but vision loss does not have to be part of this battle.