Thursday, November 15, 2012

November is Diabetic Eye Disease Month

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By Terry Orr

As a Type II Diabetic, seeing my eye doctor at least twice a year is mandatory and just plain common sense. I am a visual person – and my eye sight is extremely important to me and the source of my livelihood for the better part of five decades.

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Diabetic eye disease is one of the major causes of vision loss in adults. When the sugar levels in the blood are high, it is very stressful on the blood vessels all over the body, putting individuals at high risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. In the eye, blood vessels can start to leak or bleed in reaction to high blood sugar. This swelling in the retina can decrease vision, so it's best detected and treated early.

According to the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institute of Health (NIH) the following highlights are provided:
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What is diabetic eye disease?
Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may face as a complication of diabetes. All can cause severe vision loss or even blindness.

Diabetic eye disease may include:
  • Diabetic retinopathy—damage to the blood vessels in the retina.
  • Cataract—clouding of the eye's lens. Cataracts develop at an earlier age in people with diabetes.
  • Glaucoma—increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision. A person with diabetes is nearly twice as likely to get glaucoma as other adults.

What can I do to protect my vision?
If you have diabetes get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year and remember:
  • Proliferative retinopathy can develop without symptoms. At this advanced stage, you are at high risk for vision loss.
  • Macular edema can develop without symptoms at any of the four stages of diabetic retinopathy.
  • You can develop both proliferative retinopathy and macular edema and still see fine. However, you are at high risk for vision loss.

Current Research
What research is being done?
The National Eye Institute (NEI) is conducting and supporting research that seeks better ways to detect, treat, and prevent vision loss in people with diabetes. This research is conducted through studies in the laboratory and with patients.

Your eye care professional can tell if you have macular edema or any stage of diabetic retinopathy. Whether or not you have symptoms, early detection and timely treatment can prevent vision loss.

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See your eye doctor at least once a year – play it safe!

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