Majority of Americans Lack Awareness of Diabetic Eye Disease

By the year 2020, the number of people suffering from diabetic eye disease is expected to nearly double and the majority of people diagnosed with diabetes will have some degree of retinopathy within ten to twenty years of diagnosis.

And unfortunately, retinopathy causes vision loss and blindness if left untreated. Diabetic eye disease rarely has early warning signs. Detection begins with having a dilated eye examination every year to check for signs of diabetic eye disease and following a course of action recommended by an optometrist.

“When optometrists dilate a patient’s eyes during an eye exam, they have a clear view of the retina and can look for indications of diabetic eye disease, such as leaking blood vessels, swelling and deposits within the retina,” said Dr. Linda Chous, chief health officer at United Healthcare and past president of the Minnesota Optometric Association (MOA). “Optometrists often serve as the first line of detection for diabetes, since the eye is the only place in the body that blood vessels can be seen in their natural condition,” she said.

Diabetic retinopathy is also linked to increased risk of kidney, heart and nerve disease, making its earlier detection even more important.

Several factors influence whether someone with diabetes develops diabetic retinopathy. These include poor blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood lipid control, the length of time with diabetes, race and family history. Regardless, diabetics should undergo an eye exam at least once a year.

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