World Diabetes Day was created in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat posed by diabetes. World Diabetes Day became an official United Nations Day in 2006 with the passage of United Nation Resolution 61/225.
WDD is the world’s largest diabetes awareness campaign reaching a global audience of over 1 billion people in more than 160 countries. The campaign draws attention to issues of paramount importance to the diabetes world and keeps diabetes firmly in the public and political spotlight.
Major health organizations agree that people with diabetes should get an eye examination that includes dilation of the pupil every year to detect diabetic retinopathy. Unfortunately, many people do not get a yearly eye exam; one recent study reported that less than half of all people with diagnosed diabetes had undergone an eye examination in the past year. Currently, despite medical advances in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy, between 12,000 and 24,000 new cases of blindness related to diabetes are reported every year. Many of these could be prevented if problems were diagnosed and treated early. Routine eye examinations can also uncover other serious eye diseases, including cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration.
What is Diabetic Eye Disease?
Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye problems that can happen in people with diabetes. All of these problems can cause severe vision loss or even blindness.
The most common diabetic eye disease is diabetic retinopathy. But diabetic eye disease can include other eye problems such as:
- Cataract – This is a clouded area in the eye’s lens. While many people get cataracts as they age, they happen at an earlier age in people with diabetes.
- Glaucoma – This is damage of the optic nerve and loss of vision. It is usually associated with an increase in fluid pressure inside the eye. A person with diabetes is nearly twice as likely to get glaucoma.
What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in adults in the U.S. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy retina is necessary for good vision.
In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels might swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes.
If you have diabetic retinopathy, you might not notice changes to your vision at first. But over time, diabetic retinopathy can worsen and cause vision loss.
The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely he or she will get diabetic retinopathy. Between 40 to 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy. For this reason, everyone with diabetes should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.
Women with diabetes who become pregnant are also at higher risk of diabetic retinopathy. To protect vision, every pregnant woman with diabetes should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam as soon as possible. Your doctor might recommend additional exams during your pregnancy.
What can I do to protect my vision?
If you have diabetes, make sure to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.
If you have diabetic retinopathy, you might need an eye exam more often. People with proliferative retinopathy can reduce their risk of blindness by 95 percent with early treatment and good follow-up care.
Controlling your blood sugar levels can slow the onset and worsening of your retinopathy. Better blood sugar control also reduces the need for laser surgery to save vision. But the same level of blood sugar control might not be best for everyone, such as some elderly people, children under age 13, or people with heart disease. Be sure to ask your doctor if a control program is right for you.
Controlling elevated blood pressure and cholesterol might also reduce the risk of vision loss. This can help your overall health as well as your vision.
The doctors at Campus Eye Center have extensive experience working with patients at risk or experiencing the results of Diabetic Eye Disease. We take care of thousands of diabetics every year. If you are a patient under our care with diabetes please make sure to see us at least on an annual basis. If you or someone you know has diabetes call us today to schedule a comprehensive eye examination.