CORONA, Calif., Nov. 9, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- It's well understood that having too much glucose (also called sugar) in your blood from diabetes can damage a person's cardiovascular system and lead to such health problems as heart attacks and strokes. Lesser widely known is how frequently excess glucose can damage small blood vessels in the eye and lead to serious eye problems, including blindness. A recent study conducted by Everyday Health concluded that less than half of diabetics comprehend their risk of vision loss. Fewer still are aware of its prevalence.
Of the 29.1 million American adults with diabetes, it's estimated that 4.2 million of them will experience diabetic retinopathy, the most common diabetic eye disease. With November being National Diabetes Month and this year's National Diabetes Education Program's theme "Managing Diabetes—It's Not Easy, But It's Worth it", the important link between diabetes and eye problems should not be overlooked.
Diabetic eye disease can affect four different parts of the eye, including the retina, the lens, the vitreous gel and the optic nerve. People with diabetes are at higher risk for cataracts, glaucoma and neuropathy, and more apt to be diagnosed with these conditions at a younger age. In addition to causing permanent vision loss if untreated, some conditions can lead to low vision, which means that you would not be able to see well enough to perform everyday tasks with the help of regular glasses, contact lenses, surgery or medicine.
According to Dr. Richard Shuldiner, O.D. FAAO and founder of the International Academy of Low Vision Specialists (IALVS): "When patients with serious eye conditions including diabetic retinopathy are told by doctors that there's nothing more to be done to improve their vision, IALVS doctors design special glasses to help them do the things they love."
Dr. Shuldiner stresses, however, that early diagnosis is key to preventing vision loss. The National Eye Institute has recommended that people with diabetes get an annual comprehensive dilated eye exam from an ophthalmologist or an optometrist, which can prevent most instances of blindness or severe vision loss. Yet almost one-third of diabetics surveyed do not take this critical precautionary step.
The reason many diabetics dispense with the annual exam is that often there are no symptoms in the early stages of eye disease, when conditions are most treatable. Blurry or double vision, blank spots, flashing lights, pain, pressure or trouble seeing out of the corners of your eyes usually don't appear until it's too late. The chances of having serious eye problems grows, though, the longer undetected symptoms go untreated and the longer an individual has diabetes, especially for those who do not keep blood glucose levels close to targets.
Controlling your blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides is important to preventing and treating diabetes retina problems. An ophthalmologist may recommend medicines, laser treatments or surgery, as well. But even when medical interventions are not fully successful at restoring vision for those suffering from macular edema, the most common cause of vision loss for people with diabetes, there is still hope to regain quality of life.
"We've helped people with compromised vision to read, write, watch television, play cards, and even drive," adds Dr. Shuldiner. "New lens technologies are enabling us to provide new solutions for people with conditions that lead to limited vision." A free call to an IALVS doctor at 1-888-778-2030 can help determine whether you or a loved one can be helped by the services of a Low Vision Specialist.
But diabetics should help themselves before serious eye problems take hold. If you're looking to preserve your vision, see that you have an annual eye exam and control your blood sugar.
SOURCE International Academy of Low Vision Specialists (IALVS)