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Your Risk for Diabetic Eye Disease

By on November 17, 2012

Diabetes affects nearly 26 million people in the United States. In addition, another 79 million people are estimated to have pre-diabetes, a condition that puts people at increased risk for diabetes. All people with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, are at risk for diabetic eye disease, a leading cause of vision loss and blindness.

Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may face as a complication of the disease and includes cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy, the most common diabetic eye disease, is the leading cause of blindness in adults 20–74 years of age. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), 7.7 million people age 40 and older have diabetic retinopathy and this number is projected to increase to approximately 11 million people by 2030.

 “The longer a person has diabetes the greater is his or her risk of developing diabetic eye disease,” said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NEI. “If you have diabetes, be sure to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Diabetic eye disease often has no early warning signs, but can be detected early and treated before vision loss occurs. Don’t wait until you notice an eye problem to have an exam because vision that is lost often cannot be restored.”

In addition to having annual comprehensive dilated eye exams, people with diabetes should do the following to keep their health on TRACK:

Take your medications.

Reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Add physical activity to your daily routine.

Control your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.

Kick the smoking habit.

NEI supports more than $40 million in diabetes research and outreach, including the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network (DRCR.net), a collaboration of more than 300 physicians at more than 100 clinical sites across the United States. Lots of work is being done to learn more about progression of the disease but personal knowledge is key to preventing it from the start. Get the facts!


For more information on diabetic eye disease and tips on finding an eye care professional or financial assistance for eye care, visit nei.nih.gov/diabetes or call NEI at 301-496-5248.

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