According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), you can’t feel it, you can’t see it – until it’s too late. Diabetic retinopathy – it occurs when diabetes damages blood vessels in the retina. It is the most common form of diabetic eye disease, and is the leading cause of blindness in adults age 20 – 74.
Affecting 7.7 million Americans, that number is projected to increase to more than 14.6 million people by 2030. More than 825,000 Blacks have diabetic retinopathy, and this number is projected to increase to approximately 1.2 million people by 2030.
People with diabetes should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year to help protect their sight and keeping diabetes in control is key to slowing the progression of vision complications like diabetic retinopathy.
There are important steps that people with diabetes can take to keep their health on TRACK:
▪ Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor.
▪ Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
▪ Add physical activity to your daily routine.
▪ Control your ABC’s—A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
▪ Kick the smoking habit.
With no early symptoms, diabetic eye disease—a group of conditions including cataract, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy—can affect anyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Blacks are at higher risk for losing vision or going blind from diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 percent of Blacks have diagnosed diabetes.
“More than ever, it’s important for people with diabetes to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. New treatments are being developed all the time, and we are learning that different treatments may work best for different patients. What hasn’t changed is that early treatment is always better,” says Dr. Suber Huang, chair of the Diabetic Eye Disease Subcommittee for NEI’s National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) and member of the NEI-funded Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network (DRCR.net). “There has never been a more hopeful time in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy,” he adds.
Early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up care can reduce a person’s risk for severe vision loss from diabetic eye disease by 95 percent.
Remember, if you have diabetes, make annual comprehensive dilated eye exams part of your self-management routine. Living with diabetes can be challenging, but you don’t have to lose your vision or go blind because of it. To help friends and loved ones reduce their risk, please share this article.
For more information on diabetic eye disease, tips on finding an eye care professional, or information on financial assistance, visit https://www.nei.nih.gov/diabetes or call NEI at 301–496–5248.