The early stages of diabetes, before symptoms are present, can be diagnosed during a dilated eye exam. If you haven't had a dilated eye exam within the past 12 months, schedule yours today.
If you have diabetes, your body does not use and store sugar properly. High blood-sugar levels can damage blood vessels in the retina, the nerve layer at the back of the eye that senses light and helps to send images to the brain. The damage to retinal vessels is referred to as diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults aged 20 to 74 years.
In 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 23.6 million people in the United States have diabetes. In 2006, the CDC listed diabetes as the seventh leading cause of mortality in the United States.
Type 2 diabetes accounts for approximately 90% to 95% of all cases of diabetes among American adults. Most alarming, however, is that we are now experiencing a measureable increase in new reported cases of type 2 diabetes among individuals aged 10 to 19 years of age.
When to schedule an examination:
- People with diabetes should schedule eye examinations at least once a year. More frequent eye examinations may be necessary after the diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy.
- Pregnant women with diabetes should schedule an appointment for an eye examination in the first trimester because retinopathy can progress quickly during pregnancy.
If you need to be examined for glasses or contact lenses, it is important that your blood sugar be in consistent control for several days when you see our doctor. Eyeglass and contact lens prescriptions that work well when the blood sugar is stable may not work when sugar levels are out of control.
Rapid changes in blood sugar can cause fluctuating vision in both eyes even if retinopathy is not present.
You should have your eyes checked promptly if you have visual changes that:
- Affect only one eye.
- Last more than a few days.
- Are not associated with a change in blood sugar levels.
When you are diagnosed with diabetes, you should have your eyes checked as soon as possible to establish a baseline and then yearly thereafter.
Quick facts on diabetes from the CDC:
- 23.6 million Americans have diabetes. Of those, 17.9 million individuals are diagnosed and 5.7 million are undiagnosed.
- African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and some Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders are at particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes and its complications.
- Diabetic retinopathy causes 12,000 to 24,000 new cases of blindness each year.
- More than 60% of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations occur in people with diabetes.
- In 2007, an estimated $116 billion was spent on direct care for patients with diabetes.
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