Celebrate American Diabetes Month by Keeping Eyes Healthy

The American Diabetes Association designated November as American Diabetes Month (ADM). Every November, ADM aims to raise awareness about diabetes by focusing on programs and education. There are almost 30 million Americans who have diabetes, and 86 million Americans are prediabetic, so ADM is an important time to come together. Only then can we achieve the goal of a life free of diabetes and its burdens (Source: Diabetes.org).

Diabetes affects the entire body. Common long-term side effects of diabetes are vascular damage, nerve damage, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, poor circulation, numbness, gum disease, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and eye disease.

High glucose levels in the blood can cause the lens of the eye to swell, which can change your ability to see clearly. Blurred vision can be controlled by keeping blood sugar levels in a safe range (70-130 milligrams per deciliter or mg/dL before meals, and less than 180 mg/dL one to two hours after a meal).

Although it often takes years of poorly controlled diabetes to develop serious complications, diabetes can cause permanent damage to the eyes. One of the most common eye diseases caused by diabetes is diabetic retinopathy, a disease of the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can permanently damage vision and even cause blindness if diabetes is not controlled. Often, there are no symptoms until it is too late, so it is important to stay current with eye exams. One symptom of diabetic retinopathy is blurred vision, so it is important to visit your eye doctor regularly and contact your doctor immediately if you notice a sudden change in your vision.

Diabetics are also at higher risk for developing cataracts and glaucoma, both of which have symptoms of blurred vision. Although anyone can get cataracts or glaucoma, diabetics are at increased risk of developing cataracts or glaucoma at an earlier age and having the condition progress more quickly (Source: Web MD).

If you are diabetic, make a commitment during American Diabetes Month to visit your eye doctor and have a comprehensive eye exam so you can keep your vision healthy. If you do not have diabetes, you probably know someone who does have the disease, so support your loved one by participating in an activity. Encourage your friend or family member to get an eye exam…even offer to drive them!

Remember, together we can defeat diabetes and lead healthier lives. Happy American Diabetes Month!

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