It’s estimated that nearly 10% of Americans have diabetes. Diabetes is a systemic health condition that can affect every part of the body—including the eyes.
People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at a heightened risk for eye complications, such as glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. 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 in their lifetime.
About Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is a general term for all retinal problems caused by diabetes. It is also a leading cause of blindness. People with diabetes have difficulty naturally regulating blood glucose levels. Prolonged and persistent high blood sugar can cause blood vessels in the eye to react by swelling, leaking, or growing in areas and directions they shouldn’t. This negatively affects the retina, which is the part of our eyes that receive and convert light ultimately telling our brain what we are seeing.
How to Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy
First and foremost, take care of your body. Don’t allow diabetes to go untreated. Do what you can through lifestyle changes—diet and exercise—to keep your blood glucose levels stable.
Our next best piece of advice: get comprehensive, annual eye exams. Regardless of whether you are exhibiting symptoms or are having noticeable problems with your vision, eye exams are crucial to early detection of vision complications. If unchecked and untreated, eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy can worsen, with serious consequences such as blindness.
Additional resources for patients with diabetes: