Diabetes Is the Leading Cause of Preventable Blindness in the U.S.
Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the United States among adults aged 20 to 74 and is the fifth most common cause of preventable blindness globally. Among the 30 million Americans with diabetes, about one-third have diabetic retinopathy, the potentially blinding complication of diabetes.
Many typically don't notice changes in their vision in the disease's early stages. But as it progresses, diabetic retinopathy usually causes vision loss that in many cases cannot be reversed. That’s why it’s important for everyone with diabetes to have yearly exams for early detection. But the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consistently reports that less than two-thirds of people with diabetes undergo their recommended annual dilated ophthalmic examination. These rates are even lower among children and adolescents with diabetes, with less than half of youth with Type 2 diabetes receiving an examination within six years of diagnosis.
During November, Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, Safe Vision Texas stresses the importance of annual medical comprehensive eye exams for those with diabetes and for everyone age 40 and above.
It’s extremely important for those with diabetes to prioritize these annual exams, even if their first one indicates no vision loss.
By age 65, one in three Americans will have a vision-impairing eye disease. Many sight-robbing conditions can be effectively treated if detected early enough, in many cases limiting or eliminating the damage to eyesight.
The bottom line: Get a comprehensive medical eye exam at age 40. Early signs of disease or changes in vision may begin at this age. An exam by an ophthalmologist is an opportunity to carefully examine the eye for diseases and conditions that may have no symptoms in the early stages. For those concerned about the cost of an exam, the Academy’s EyeCare America® program may be able to help. More than 5,500 dedicated volunteer ophthalmologists provide eye exams and care, often at no out-of-pocket cost to eligible patients. Learn if you qualify.
“An eye exam doesn’t just check how well you can see, it evaluates the overall health of your eyes,” said Rebecca J. Taylor, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “The Academy encourages everyone, particularly if you’re over age 40, to get regular eye care. By making vision a priority, we can help protect our sight as we age.”
To learn more ways to keep your eyes healthy, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeSmart® website.