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Annual Dilated Eye Exams Encouraged during National Diabetes Month

People with diabetes are at greater risk for cataracts, which cause clouding of the eye lens, and glaucoma, which damages the optic nerve.

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common and debilitating complications of diabetes.

During National Diabetes Month, the National Eye Institute (NEI), a part of the National Institutes of Health, is encouraging people with diabetes to get annual dilated eye exams and take steps to avoid vision loss.

People with diabetes are at greater risk for cataracts, which cause clouding of the eye lens, and glaucoma, which damages the optic nerve. In the United States, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among working-age adults.

About 28.5 percent of U.S. adults age 40 and older with diabetes have diabetic retinopathy, a condition that causes blood vessels of the retina to swell and leak fluid. The retina is the light-sensing layer of tissue in the back of the eye. As the disease progresses, blood vessels become blocked and rupture or new vessels grow on the retina, leading to permanent and sometimes profound vision loss.

People with diabetes can take steps to prevent complications of diabetes. In addition to controlling blood glucose and blood pressure through healthy eating, adequate exercise, and medication, people with diabetes should have annual dilated eye exams to identify signs of diabetic retinopathy, which usually has no symptoms until vision loss occurs. Comprehensive dilated eye exams allow eye care professionals to monitor the eye, including the retina, for signs of disease. Ninety percent of diabetes-related blindness is preventable through early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up care.

According to an NEI survey, 96 percent of adults said they would get a comprehensive dilated eye exam if their health care provider suggested they get one. People at highest risk of vision loss and blindness from diabetes include African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, and Alaskan Natives.

Last reviewed on November 03, 2011

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