November Is Diabetic Eye Disease Month
CompBenefits Urges Annual Eye Exams for All Diabetics
(November 17, 2004) ATLANTA—Managing diabetes is a difficult enough proposition. And the possibility of blindness or serious eye disease from the disorder complicates matters even more.
During November, Prevent Blindness America marks Diabetic Eye Disease Month, an annual campaign to raise awareness about the necessity for diabetics to pay close attention to their eyesight.
CompBenefits—an insurance company that provides vision benefits through VisionCare Plan—urges all diabetics to seek an annual eye exam to ensure that their eyes remain healthy for years to come. With CompBenefits nine-part eye examination, a trip to the eye doctor could mean diagnosing diabetic eye diseases in their early stages.
Among the most common eye disorders that strike diabetics are glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Both can result in serious loss of vision and even blindness.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness. It causes loss of sight by damaging the optic nerve, and increased pressure inside the eye may also play a role in glaucoma. It is incurable, and once glaucoma strikes, vision loss is irreversible.
At least one half of all people with glaucoma don’t know they have it. The rate of blindness from glaucoma, according to Prevent Blindness America, is about one in 1,000 people older than 40.
Glaucoma in its early stages is very hard to detect. People usually don’t notice that they have glaucoma unless they have a great deal of damage to their optic nerve. In the later stages of the disease, the symptoms that can occur are:
- loss of side vision
- an inability to adjust the eye to darkened rooms
- difficulty focusing on close work
- rainbow colored rings or halos around lights
- a frequent need to change eyeglass prescriptions
The best way for diabetics to guard against glaucoma is an annual visit to the eye for a comprehensive eye examination, such as the one covered by CompBenefits’ VisionCare Plan. This exam includes dilating the pupils and other tests—the only ways to determine if glaucoma is present.
Diabetic retinopathy damages the retina’s blood vessels, which can begin to weaken and, ultimately, begin to bleed. Once this happens, vision is significantly affected, becoming clouded or distorted. Scarring resulting from the blood vessels’ healing can cause the retina to detach. When this happens, serious vision loss and possibly blindness follows.
Diabetic retinopathy affects more than 5.3 million Americans 18 and older. The longer people have diabetes, the greater risk they have of developing diabetic retinopathy. Maintaining satisfactory blood sugar levels and annual, comprehensive eye examinations are the best defenses diabetics have against diabetic retinopathy, Prevent Blindness America says.