Diabetes is considered to become the next epidemic in our country, having increased by more than 25% in just the past ten years. 17 million people are diabetic, and about 1/3 do not know it. Diabetics are at risk for heart disease, kidney disease, loss of a limb, and blindness. National programs are in place to increase public awareness about preventable diseases like diabetes, and here’s our reminder to you that November is “Diabetes Awareness Month.”
Every year, as many as 24,000 people go blind as a result of eye damage (“diabetic retinopathy”) brought on by diabetes. It is estimated that 95% of vision loss can be prevented through early detection and treatment. Diabetic retinopathy typically shows no early warning signs. Without timely treatment, there can be fluctuations of vision and changes in your eye prescription, as well as increased chances of developing glaucoma, macular degeneration, and/or cataracts. Almost 30% of diabetics haven’t had an eye exam within the past year, but prevention starts with early detection through a comprehensive eye exam. Dr. Cohen can fully evaluate your eyes and detect the early signs of retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts.
There are several things you can do to decrease the chance of developing diabetic eye disease. Keeping blood sugar levels within the target range and without significant fluctuations throughout the day can reduce the damage to blood vessels in the eye, thereby reducing damage to sensitive ocular structures. Controlling high blood pressure (which can further damage vessels) is also important. A healthy diet and exercise program are obvious, but underutilized defenses, such as an annual eye exam with Dr. Cohen, needs to be near the top of the list. Remember that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In this case, “an ounce of prevention is worth a lifetime of vision.”