An overwhelming 79% of Americans are unaware that diabetic eye diseases exhibit no visible symptoms, and more than half are unaware that comprehensive eye exams can detect diabetes, according to the American Optometric Association.
The AOA shared these findings from its most recent American Eye-Q Survey in recognition of November as Diabetes Awareness Month.
Optometrists identified diabetes-related manifestations in more than 320,000 patients who were unaware they had diabetes in 2016 alone, according to AOA President Christopher J. Quinn, OD, in an AOA press release.
The group advocates for regular, dilated eye exams for those with diabetes or those at risk for diabetes and reminds patients that online vision apps only check for refractive errors such as myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism and cannot detect diabetes, according to the release.
Prevent Blindness projects that the rates of diabetic eye diseases will increase 35%, to 10.9 million, by 2032 and 63%, to 13.2 million, by 2050.
More men than women have diabetic retinopathy, which contrasts with other eye disease such as cataract, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
Hispanic populations are projected to exhibit extremely high growth in diabetic retinopathy, according to Prevent Blindness. Currently, 67% of cases are among whites, and 17% are among Hispanics. By 2050, 35% of cases are projected to be among Hispanics.
Steps can be taken to help prevent diabetic eye disease and improve diabetes management, Prevent Blindness said, including:
- maintain good blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol control;
- undergo a comprehensive dilated eye exam and/or have retinal photographs at least once a year;
- have a comprehensive dilated eye exam early in any pregnancy;
- keep a healthy lifestyle;
- see an endocrinologist if you have diabetes;
- establish a diabetes team;
- if you have pre-diabetes, actively manage your health; and
The Lighthouse Guild stressed that the podiatrist is an important part of the diabetes care team.
In addition, joining a diabetes support group can help you learn from people who are in the same situation and understand what you are facing, according to Carmen Pal, MD, an endocrinologist who heads the Lighthouse Guild Bendheim Center for Diabetes Care.
Lighthouse Guild suggests resources such as a certified diabetes educator, to help patients learn practical techniques and strategies for monitoring blood sugar and taking medications.
Sources: AOA.org, PreventBlindness.org, LighthouseGuild.org