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The National Diabetes Statistics Report estimates that 30.3 million people in the U.S. have diabetes and in 7.2 million of those cases, the disease is undiagnosed. (Image: Courtesy MyEyeDr.)

Why it's key to be on the lookout for diabetic eye disease

The National Diabetes Statistics Report estimates that 30.3 million people in the U.S. have diabetes and in 7.2 million of those cases, the disease is undiagnosed. Beyond that, an estimated 84.1 million adults in the U.S. had prediabetes in 2015 and only 11.6 percent of them were informed of their condition.

Both diabetes and prediabetes affect eye health to the extent that diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of preventable blindness in U.S. adults.

Indeed, individuals with untreated diabetes are 25 times more likely to lose their sight compared to the general population.

As we approach the end of the year, now is a good time to check in with the loved ones in your life, especially those at a greater risk of diabetes. Have they scheduled their annual eye exam?

What is diabetic eye disease?

Diabetic eye disease is a catch-all term for several eye conditions caused by high blood glucose levels associated with untreated diabetes. The eye contains lots of tiny blood vessels as well as delicate nerves. When blood glucose stays high over extended periods of time, it can cause any of the following conditions:

  • Diabetic Retinopathy – blood vessels in the eye weaken, bleed or leak fluid into the retina, if left unchecked, new fragile blood vessels can grow along the inside surface of the retina, potentially causing permanent vision loss
  • Diabetic Macular Edema – characterized by leaking blood vessels close to the most visually sensitive part of the eye (the macula)
  • Cataracts – the clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy, blocking or changing the passage of light in the eye and making vision blurry
  • Glaucoma – the result of damage to the optic nerve due to intra-ocular pressure, a delayed diagnosis can lead to irreparable harm, loss of vision, or even blindness in extreme cases

What should you do?

The most important thing is for those with diabetes or prediabetes to get annual eye exams in which their pupils are dilated completely to conduct retinal imaging. At MyEyeDr., eye exams can include retinal imaging so that doctors can thoroughly check for signs of the above conditions.

If complications are in an early stage, your optometrist can help prevent further damage. The same behavioral changes that address diabetes will address the impact on eye health, so your doctor will likely advise you to manage your blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol, and give up smoking if you happen to be a smoker.

This online tool from MyEyeDr. simulates how someone with vision problems sees so you can understand what you risk by not addressing the threat diabetes poses to your eye health.

After your exam, you can find a great new pair of glasses at MyEyeDr. Designer frames currently being promoted include Michael Kors, Coach, Ray Ban and Tory Burch. If you’ve contributed to your Flexible Spending Account (FSA), your healthcare benefits may expire soon. Now’s the time to use the remaining balance on essential items that contribute to overall health and well-being.

MyEyeDr. is a network of more than 300 optometry practices east of the Mississippi that offer comprehensive eye care services, a selection of designer and value prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses, and standard and specialty prescription contact lenses.

By welcoming all vision insurance plans and providers, MyEyeDr. makes vision health attainable for everyone. Plus, with the year running out, eye exams and new frames or contacts are a great way to FSA dollars you don’t want to lose. For more information, visit