Do you know someone with diabetes? I bet you do. In fact, over 25.6 million Americans over 20 years old suffer from diabetes, which costs over $250 million in health care spending for Type 2 alone.
So why do optometrists care so much about this condition?
Well, unfortunately, diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss in working age patients. So, not only do thousands of my patients have diabetes, including my father, they are all at risk for debilitating vision loss. Considering that this condition hits so close to home for me, I have made it my mission to reach out to the community and remind everyone of the importance of a yearly dilated eye examination.
By checking your eyes, optometrists can find early changes in the retinal blood vessels. These changes can include small areas of blood and fluid leakage as well as areas that are not getting the blood they need to survive. If these changes get bad enough, new blood vessels start to grow that are even more prone to leakage. Soon, without treatment, people lose their sight. The scary part is that most of these changes occur silently and without pain until it is too late to salvage what’s left of the person’s vision. The fortunate part is that if caught early, treatment can slow and sometimes halt the progression. This problem is so important that primary care doctors are now graded on the percentage of patients they refer for a yearly dilated examination.
So please, if you have diabetes, do the following:
- Find the time to visit an eye care professional for your yearly examination.
- Show up to all of your scheduled appointments for your primary care doctor.
- Take your medicine!
- Be honest with your doctors if you are struggling.
- Exercise in any safe manner. Do what interests you.
- Know your number! Check your blood sugar and ask your doctor for a goal.
- Study and eat a proper diabetic diet. That does not just mean not eating sweets. Ask a dietician or your doctor for advice.
Look, I know from personal experience that it is easier said than done, but keeping up with these seven principles can save your vision and extend your life. Also, if you have a family member with diabetes, please help me spread the word!