Have diabetes? Get your eyes checked

In National Diabetes Month, the American Optometric Association (AOA) is reminding people to get eye exams.

According to the National Eye Institute, diabetic eye disease is a serious condition that often has no warning signs. Left untreated, it can lead to blindness, kidney failure and heart disease. The condition covers a range of eye problems, such as cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy--where the blood vessels in the retina become damaged.

A growing problem

Dr. Robin Wulffson notes that 12,000-24,000 people lose their vision due to diabetes every year, a problem that many people aren't even aware of until it's too late.

The AOA says that only about 44 percent of Americans know about diabetic eye disease, and 43 percent aren't even aware that a diabetic should have regular eye exams. And while detecting the disease can be difficult, the AOA notes that symptoms like blurred or double vision, pain or pressure in the eyes, trouble focusing or visible dark spots in vision should be taken seriously.

Get your yearly exam

Paul Chous, O.D. and a member of the AOA, explains the importance of annual exams:

"Yearly, dilated eye exams given by a doctor of optometry are extremely important for those living with diabetes. 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."

Since the eye is the only place that blood vessels can be examined without having to look through skin, the AOA stresses how important eye checkups are for diabetics. In addition to these exams, they recommend including omega fatty acids in the diet, controlling blood pressure and avoiding alcohol and cigarettes as ways to maintain eye health.

Sources: Emax Health, National Eye Institute

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