November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month. Diabetes is a common condition that is estimated to impact 1 in 10 Americans—and it’s also a medical condition that may cause vision complications. The World Health Organization reports that more than 75% of patients who have had diabetes for more than 20 years will have some form of diabetic retinopathy.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is a general term for retinal problems caused by diabetes and is a leading cause of blindness in the United States.
Treating Diabetic Retinopathy
Ophthalmologists are working hard to develop technologies to advance the detection and diagnosis of diabetic eye disease. In October 2020, the American Academy of Ophthalmology released this article outlining medical advancements that are on the horizon, including artificial intelligence that can detect eye damage caused by diabetes.
While ongoing research continues to produce advancements in treatment, there are still ways in which your ophthalmologist can treat diabetic eye disease effectively. Depending on the location and severity of your problem, your ophthalmologist may recommend surgery or a laser procedure. Sometimes medication may be used to help slow or stop vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy.
Preventing Diabetic Retinopathy
Following your primary doctors’ care plan to manage your diabetes and maintaining healthy blood glucose levels is step one. Eating a healthy diet rich in vitamins and nutrients, getting regular exercise, and refraining from smoking are all ways you can create a lifestyle that decreases the impact of diabetes on your body.
Step two: make sure you see your ophthalmologist annually. Diabetic retinopathy may present no symptoms, especially early on. Comprehensive eye exams are crucial to early detection of vision complications. If unchecked and untreated, eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, or glaucoma can worsen, resulting in serious consequences such as blindness.
Additional resources for patients with diabetes: