AOA campaign reminds patients of importance of eye exams during American Diabetes Month

November 16, 2012

During American Diabetes Month, the AOA is encouraging Americans with diabetes to schedule at least annual dilated eye examinations, depending on their particular examination findings and their optometrist’s recommendations to help detect and even prevent eye and vision disorders that could lead to blindness.

Each year, 12,000 to 24,000 people lose their sight because of diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 26 million people in the United States, or 8.3 percent of the population, have diabetes.

An estimated 7 million Americans are undiagnosed, with Hispanics and blacks at higher risk for developing the disease.

“Yearly, dilated eye exams given by a doctor of optometry are extremely important for those living with diabetes,” said Paul Chous, O.D., author of “Diabetic Eye Disease: Lessons From a Diabetic Eye Doctor.” “When the eyes are dilated, an eye doctor is able to examine the retina for early warning signs of diabetic eye disease and prescribe a course of treatment to preserve an individual’s sight. Many eye problems are silent until they are in an advanced stage, but early detection and treatment can truly save a person’s vision.”

Results from the AOA’s 2012 American Eye-Q® consumer survey revealed only 44 percent of Americans are aware diabetic eye disease often has no visual signs or symptoms.

Additionally, 43 percent of American’s don’t know a person with diabetes should have a comprehensive eye exam once a year.

Diabetic eye and vision disorders

People with diabetes are at a significantly higher risk for developing eye diseases including glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy, one of the most serious sight-threatening complications of diabetes.

Those with diabetes are 40 percent more likely to suffer from glaucoma than people without diabetes.

Many people without diabetes will get cataracts, but those with the disease are 60 percent more likely to develop this eye condition.

People with diabetes also tend to get cataracts at a younger age and have them progress faster.

Because early warning signs of diabetic eye and vision disorders are often subtle or undetected, the AOA recommends high-risk individuals look for initial signs and contact an AOA doctor of optometry if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • Sudden blurred or double vision
  • Trouble reading or focusing on near-work
  • Eye pain or pressure
  • A noticeable aura or dark ring around lights or illuminated objects
  • Visible dark spots in vision or images of flashing lights.

In addition to a having yearly, comprehensive eye exam, the AOA offers the following tips to help prevent or slow the development of diabetic eye diseases:

  • Take prescribed medication as directed
  • Keep glycohemoglobin test results (“A1c” or average blood sugar level) consistently under 7 percent
  • Stick to a healthy diet that includes Omega 3s, fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise regularly
  • Control high blood pressure
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking.

For additional information on eye health, and diabetic retinopathy, visit www.aoa.org/diabetic-retinopathy.xml.

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