Nearly 25 percent of Americans with diabetes don’t know that Annual Eye Exams Play a Key Role in Early Detection of Diabetes. According to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 23.1 million Americans were diagnosed with diabetes in 2015, with an estimated 7.2 million remaining un-diagnosed patients. Because nearly one-third of the diabetic population is un-diagnosed, an annual eye exam is critical, as it could be the difference in knowing whether a person has diabetes or not.
While routine blood work can provide a clear conclusion, many may not realize an annual eye exam can prove useful in the early detection of diabetes. Since diabetes can affect the blood vessels in the back of the eye, photographing the retina is one of the best tools for doctors to monitor patients’ ocular health and may help to detect other issues affecting their overall systemic health, like diabetes.
Whether diagnosed or un-diagnosed, patients with diabetes are at risk of diabetic eye disease, which can lead to vision impairment or blindness. In alignment with American Diabetes Month and Diabetic Eye Disease Month, we are sharing information on this group of eye conditions that can be diagnosed by an eye doctor in diabetic and non-diabetic patients, including:
- Diabetic Retinopathy—caused by damage to tiny blood vessels in the retina which begin to bleed or leak fluid. If left unchecked, diabetic retinopathy can progress in severity—leading to the formation of new, fragile blood vessels growing along the inside surface of the retina. These delicate vessels are easily broken. The resulting scar tissue and other changes can shrink and contract causing retinal detachment and potential permanent vision loss.
- Diabetic Macular Edema—characterized by leaking blood vessels close to the most visually sensitive part of the eye (the macula) and typically happens in conjunction with diabetic retinopathy. If left untreated, macular edema can lead to irreversible damage of the macula and permanent vision loss.
Additional eye conditions that are common in diabetic patients and can be diagnosed by an optometrist include:
- Cataracts—affect more than 22 million Americans and are caused by clouding of the lens, blocking or changing the passage of light in the eye and making vision blurry.
- Glaucoma—often referred to as the “silent thief of sight,” glaucoma is the result of damage to the optic nerve due to intra-ocular pressure. Because the disease is often asymptomatic, a delayed diagnosis can lead to irreparable harm, loss of vision, or even blindness in extreme cases. See first-hand how cataracts and glaucoma can impact your vision with this online tool.
- According to Prevent Blindness, individuals with untreated diabetes are 25 times more likely to lose their sight than the general population. As the number one cause of preventable blindness in the United States, it is important for patients diagnosed or at a greater risk of diabetes to have a routine comprehensive dilated eye exam every year.