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When was your last eye exam?

September 4, 2012 in News

The diabetes epidemic is concerning in and of itself, but it also may be driving large spikes in related health problems as well. A group of researchers sponsored jointly by the National Eye Institute and Prevent Blindness America just released their analysis of the rates health conditions that threaten vision in the United States. They found the largest and most troublesome increase in the rates of diabetic retinopathy, which increased 89 percent between 2000 and 2010.

An 89 percent increase.

The rates of other conditions increased as well, but to a lesser degree. Cataracts showed a 19 percent increase, incidents of open-angle glaucoma increased 22 percent, and late age-related macular degeneration (AMD) increased by 25%. None of these come close to the 89 percent jump for diabetic retinopathy.

In diabetic retinopathy, high blood sugar levels cause small blood vessels to swell and start to leak. This fluid leaks into the retina, gradually blurring vision. Untreated, this can lead to permanent vision impairment and blindness. This is currently the leading cause of blindness, and a 2008 report documented about 4.2 million adults in the United States with the condition.

Diabetic retinopathy can be treated, and the progression to vision impairment or blindness can be stopped, as long as intervention takes place in timely manner. Since it is possible to have diabetic retinopathy without showing any symptoms, it is extremely important for anyone with diabetes to get regular eye exams. The earlier the condition is detected, the better the outcome of treatment.

According to the researchers who published the eye disease figures, if the current trends continue, around 13 million people will have vision impairment or be blind by 2050.

“Vision impairment” is defined as having worse that 20/40 vision in a person’s better eye, even with glasses. Blindness is defined as having worse than 20/200 vision in the better eye.

Much of the increase is due to an aging population, but increased rates of diabetes are a significant contributor as well. However, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and AMD are all treatable conditions, and early treatment can slow or halt declines in vision.

Having yet another appointment to go to can make you feel overwhelmed, but keeping that annual eye exam can literally save your vision. Your opthamologist can usually detect and start treating diabetic retinopathy before you ever know you have it.

Diabetes Agent has additional information on diabetic retinopathy here: PUT LINK HERE!!

USA Today published the article that served as the basis for this post – you can read the news report on their website.


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