During American Diabetes Month®, the American Optometric Association (AOA) reminds patients that early detection and treatment may limit potential for vision loss
ST. LOUIS, Nov. 1, 2013 - With more than 8 percent of the American population having diabetes, regular dilated eye exams are critical to prevent vision loss.
Diabetes is a disease that interferes with the body's ability to use and store sugar, which can cause many health problems. Too much sugar in the blood can cause damage throughout the body, including the eyes. Over time, diabetes affects the circulation system of the retina, the light sensitive lining at the back of the eye.
"Many eye problems show no symptoms until they are in an advanced stage, and that is why we recommend that people with diabetes in particular have an eye examination by a doctor of optometry at least once a year," said Tina MacDonald, O.D., a Certified Diabetes Educator and a member of the AOA's Health Promotions Committee. "When the eyes are dilated, an eye doctor is able to examine the retina for signs of diabetic eye disease and prescribe a course of treatment to help preserve an individual's sight."
According to the AOA's 2013 American Eye-Q® consumer survey, only 32 percent of respondents are aware that diabetic eye disease often has no visual signs or symptoms. Additionally, only 39 percent know that diabetes can be detected through a comprehensive eye examination.
People with Diabetes at Greater Risk for Eye and Vision Disorders
People with diabetes are at a significantly higher risk for developing eye diseases including glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy, one of the most serious sight-threatening complications of diabetes.
Those with diabetes are 40 percent more likely to suffer from glaucoma than people without diabetes. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases characterized by damage to the optic nerve resulting in gradual peripheral vision loss.
Many people without diabetes will get cataracts, but those with the disease are 60 percent more likely to develop this eye condition. People with diabetes also tend to get cataracts at a younger age and have them progress faster. With cataracts, the eye's clear lens clouds, blocking light and interfering with normal vision.
Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that causes progressive damage to the retina. Damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina causes swelling of retinal tissue and clouding of vision. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy may lead to blindness.
Since early warning signs of diabetic eye and vision disorders are often subtle or undetected, the AOA recommends that high-risk individuals look for initial signs and contact a doctor of optometry if any of the following symptoms are present:
- Sudden blurred or double vision
- Trouble reading or focusing on near-work
- Eye pain or pressure
- A noticeable aura or dark ring around lights or illuminated objects
- Visible dark spots in vision or images of flashing lights
In addition to having a yearly, comprehensive eye exam, the AOA offers the following tips to help prevent or slow the development of diabetic eye disease:
- Take prescribed medication as directed
- Keep glycohemoglobin test results ("A1c" or average blood sugar level) consistently under 7 percent
- Stick to a healthy diet that includes Omega 3s, fresh fruits and vegetables
- Exercise regularly
- Control high blood pressure
- Avoid alcohol and smoking
For additional information on eye health and diabetic retinopathy, please visit http://www.aoa.org/diabetic-retinopathy.xml.
About the survey:
The eighth annual American Eye-Q® survey was created and commissioned in conjunction with Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB). From March 15-18, 2013 using an online methodology, PSB interviewed 1,000 Americans 18 years and older who embodied a nationally representative sample of U.S. general population. (Margin of error at 95 percent confidence level)
About the American Optometric Association (AOA):
The American Optometric Association, a federation of state, student and armed forces optometric associations, was founded in 1898. Today, the AOA is proud to represent the profession of optometry, America's family eye doctors, who take a leading role in an individual's overall eye and vision care, health and well-being. Doctors of optometry (ODs) are the independent primary health care professionals for the eye and have extensive, ongoing training to examine, diagnose, treat and manage disorders, diseases and injuries that affect the eye and visual system, providing two-thirds of primary eye care in the U.S. For information on a variety of eye health and vision topics, and to find an optometrist near you, visit www.aoa.org.
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