November is American Diabetes Month, an annual event each November to boost awareness about the risk factors, symptoms, and types of diabetes. Diabetes is one of the fastest growing health challenges of the 21st century, with the number of adults living with diabetes having more than tripled over the past 20 years.
The CDC reports over 34 million American adults with diabetes (just over 1 in 10) and 88 million that are pre-diabetic. The rate of new cases of diabetes among children and adolescents continues to grow.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that affects the body’s ability to produce or use insulin effectively to control blood sugar (glucose) levels. Too much glucose in the blood for a long time can cause damage in many parts of the body. Hyperglycaemia can damage the vessels that supply blood to vital organs, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, nerve problems, and vision problems.
How Diabetes Affect Your Vision
Diabetes has been linked to several eye problems including diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataract, and glaucoma (defined below). Some people may experience symptoms such as: blurry vision, spots or floaters, impaired color vision, or trouble seeing at night. “Some may not experience any early symptoms and that is why it’s important to have routine eye exams, says Dr. Shofner.”
Diabetic retinopathy - People who have diabetes or poor blood sugar control are at risk for diabetic retinopathy. Risk also increases the longer someone has diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of blindness in the western world.
Macular edema - Diabetes can cause macular edema, fluid builds up on the retina and causes swelling and blurry vision. Diabetic macular edema can lead to permanent vision loss.
Cataracts - Excess blood sugar from diabetes can causes cataracts. You may need cataract surgery to remove lenses that are clouded by the effects of diabetes. Maintaining good control of your blood sugar helps prevent permanent clouding of the lens and surgery.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that cause damage to your eye's optic nerve. This damage leads to irreversible loss of vision. Having diabetes DOUBLES your chance of getting glaucoma.
Reduce Your Risks
Careful management of your diabetes is the best way to prevent vision loss. It’s important to talk to your doctor and receive timely A1C tests, eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise, don’t smoke, reduce your stress levels, and pay attention to vision changes. Blood sugar management can reduce the risk of eye disease by 40%. Additionally, regular eye exams and timely treatment could prevent up to 90% of diabetes-related blindness.
If you’ve been recently diagnosed with either Type 1 or Type 2, it’s very important to schedule a comprehensive eye exam, even if your vision seems fine. Shofner Vision Center will provide special care to help diabetic patients keep their vision and treat impairment.