Proper Eye Care Essential for Americans with Diabetes

The American Optometric Association reminds patients that yearly, comprehensive eye exams remain a critical pathway to eye, vision and overall health

Nov 05, 2015, 09:30 ET from American Optometric Association

ST. LOUIS, Nov. 5, 2015  /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes and another 86 million have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. In addition, diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults. During American Diabetes Month®, the American Optometric Association (AOA) reminds those with diabetes that it's essential to schedule yearly, comprehensive eye exams in order to help detect and prevent eye and vision disorders related to diabetes.

"Early symptoms of diabetic eye and vision disorders are often subtle or unnoticed," says Sue Lowe, O.D., chair of the AOA's Health Promotions Committee. "However, the good news is that advancements in optometric technology are improving patient outcomes and leading to earlier detection of eye diseases to help preserve sight."

Individuals with diabetes are at a significantly higher risk for developing eye and vision disorders, including:

  • Diabetic retinopathy: One of the most serious sight-threatening complications of diabetes, diabetic retinopathy causes progressive damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina of the eye. Between 40 to 45 percent of Americans with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy, and if left untreated, it can lead to blindness. Early detection is key for best treatments.
  • Glaucoma: 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. While glaucoma is not preventable, the key is to identify and diagnose the disease early and treat it to slow the progression of vision loss.
  • Cataracts: With cataracts, the eye's natural clear lens clouds, which can block light and interfere with vision, and individuals with diabetes are 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts. Additionally, high blood sugar can lead to changes in the lens and may put you at a higher risk of developing cataracts.
  • Macular degeneration: People with diabetes can also be at risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) if they have excessive blood sugar levels. The macula (or the middle part of the retina) is responsible for providing clear, central vision and can cause blurred, distorted or dimmed vision if AMD occurs.

"Based on recent research, we know that 58 percent of adults with diabetes had an eye exam in the past year, which is troubling among eye doctors. We recommend people, especially those with diabetes, have a comprehensive eye examination by a doctor of optometry at least once a year," says Dr. Lowe. "When the eyes are dilated, an eye doctor is able to examine the optic nerve, the retina and the retinal blood vessels to assess eye health and even a person's overall health."

According to the AOA's American Eye-Q® survey, the majority of Americans (62 percent) don't realize diabetic eye disease often has no visual signs or warnings. The AOA encourages all patients, especially those with diabetes, to watch for signs of potential problems and contact an optometrist if they experience any of the following:

  • Sudden blurred or double vision;
  • Trouble reading or focusing on near-work;
  • Eye pain or pressure;
  • A noticeable narrowing of vision; and
  • Visible dark spots in vision or flashing lights in one or both eyes.

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:

  • Maintain a healthy diet including Omega 3s, fresh fruits and vegetables;
  • Take prescribed medication as directed;
  • Keep glycohemoglobin test results ("A1c" or average blood sugar level) consistently under seven percent;
  • Exercise regularly;
  • Control high blood pressure; and
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking.

For additional information on eye health and diabetic eye disease, please visit

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

About the American Eye-Q® survey:
The 10th annual American Eye-Q® survey was created and commissioned in conjunction with Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB). From February 19-March 4, 2015, PSB conducted 1,000 online interviews among Americans 18 years and older who embodied a nationally representative sample of the U.S. general population. (Margin of error is plus or minus 3.10 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.)

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SOURCE American Optometric Association