Diabetic eye disease includes cataract, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy, which is the most common form of the disease. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in adults 20–74 years of age. More than 800,000 African Americans have diabetic retinopathy, and this number will likely reach 1.2 million by 2030. While everyone who has diabetes can get diabetic eye disease, African Americans are at higher risk of losing vision or going blind from it.
"The longer a person has diabetes, the greater is his or her risk of developing diabetic eye disease," said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Eye Institute (NEI). "If you have diabetes, be sure to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Don't wait until you notice an eye problem to have an exam, because vision that is lost cannot be restored."
Unfortunately, diabetic eye disease often has no early warning signs. But the good news you can share with your family is that it can be detected early and treated before vision loss occurs.
"In fact, with early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up care, people with diabetes can reduce their risk of severe vision loss by 95 percent," adds Suber Huang, M.D., M.B.A., chair of the Diabetic Eye Disease Subcommittee for NEI's National Eye Health Education Program.
Research has also shown that when people with diabetes have good control of their blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol, they can help delay getting diabetic eye disease, or slow its progress. In addition to having annual comprehensive dilated eye exams, people with diabetes should do the following to keep their health on TRACK:
• Take your medications.
• Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
• Add physical activity to your daily routine.
• Control your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
• Kick the smoking habit.
Family matters. So if you or someone in your family has diabetes, set your sight on healthy vision. Schedule a comprehensive dilated eye exam today. For more information on diabetic eye disease and tips on finding an eye care professional and financial assistance for eye care, visit http://www.nei.nih.gov/diabetes or call the NEI at 301–496–5248.