The month of November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month. Diabetes has become so common in the United States that, according to the CDC’s statistical report on the disease, 9.3% of the population of the United States has the disease; this number translates to 29.1 million people. Also, 27.8% of the people who have the disease are undiagnosed. Did you know that the number one cause of blindness amongst working class Americans is Diabetes? When you consider that over one fourth of the people who have diabetes are undiagnosed, he or she is not only not getting the medical care needed to treat the disease, he or she is also putting themselves at a great risk for potential eye damages and even blindness.
Diabetic Eye Disease is a term that comprises several different conditions that can affect persons living with diabetes. The conditions placed under the heading of Diabetic Eye Disease are: retinopathy, Diabetic Macular Edema, Cataract, and Glaucoma. All of these conditions have the capability of causing blindness.
While some of these conditions will cause irreversible damage to the eye, persons who have been diagnosed with Diabetes can still protect their vision. In fact, according to the National Eye Institute, early detection and treatment can reduce the risk of blindness by 95%. Persons with conditions such as Diabetic Retinopathy often do not develop symptoms right away, so persons diagnosed with diabetes should get a comprehensive dilated exam at least once every year. Also, diabetic retinopathy may be slowed by the onset of diabetic treatment and control.
Diabetic retinopathy and macular edema are detected during a comprehensive dilated eye exam. This test will include the following: visual acuity test, an eye chart that measures a person’s ability to see at various distances; tonometry test which measures pressures within the eye; a pupil dilation test, where drops are placed upon the surface of the eye, which widens the pupil, and this widening allows an examination of the retina and the optic nerve; and, lastly, an optical coherence tomography, which uses light waves, much in the same way as an ultrasound uses sounds waves, and these light waves enable images to be captured of tissues within the body.
Like many diseases, diabetic eye diseases are more easily dealt with, by early detection. If you or someone close to you is diabetic, make sure that they are receiving an eye exam, at the least, every year.