What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in American adults. Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how your body processes sugar. People with diabetes either don’t make enough insulin or they don’t respond well to insulin. According to the National Diabetes Statistic Report 2020, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, 34.2 million Americans currently have diabetes, and 88 million Americans have prediabetes. Of the 88 million with prediabetes 80% of them don’t even know they have it.

It has been proven that lifestyle changes, including a healthy whole food diet and regular physical activity, can decrease risk of developing diabetes by up to 58% for people under 60, and 71% for people over 60 years old. Currently diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. Having diabetes significantly increases your risk of serious health conditions including;

  • Blindness

  • Heart attack

  • Stroke

  • Kidney failure

  • Loss of toes,feet, or legs

Risk Factors for Diabetes

Risk factors for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes include:

  • Age over 60

  • Family history of diabetes

  • Overweight

  • Not physically active

  • History of gestational diabetes

  • African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, and American Indians

Preventing Diabetes

Lifestyle changes have been proven to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes including:

  • Physical activity

  • Healthy diet

  • Weight loss

Diabetic Retinopathy
What is Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among adults in the United States. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the small blood vessels in the eyes are affected by diabetes and start to leak fluid or blood into the retina. The leaky blood vessels can damage the retina and lead to permanent vision loss. Approximately 30% of people with diabetes have some form of diabetic retinopathy. If you have diabetes, yearly dilated eye exams are essential to reduce your risk of having vision loss due to diabetes. Risk of developing vision threatening diabetic retinopathy can be reduced through early detection and treatment, proper disease management, and healthy lifestyle choices.

Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy

There are 2 main forms of diabetic retinopathy non-proliferative and proliferative.

  • Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) occurs in earlier stages of the disease. There are 3 stages of NPDR; mild, moderate, and severe. The stage of NPDR depends on the level of damaged blood vessels in the eyes.

  • Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) occurs in more advanced stages of the disease. PDR occurs when there has been so much damage to the retinal blood vessels your body starts to create new vessels. These new blood vessels are fragile, almost always break, and can lead to scar tissue formation in the retina.

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

In early stages diabetic retinopathy often has no symptoms. As diabetic retinopathy progresses symptoms could include:

  • Blurry vision

  • Fluctuating vision

  • New floaters

  • Blind spots in your field of vision

  • Losing vision

Risks of Diabetic Retinopathy

The length of time you have diabetes is the largest risk factor for developing diabetic retinopathy. Approximately 80% of people with diabetes for 15 years or longer will develop diabetic retinopathy. Other risk factors include:

  • Uncontrolled blood sugar levels

  • High blood pressure

  • High cholesterol

  • Tobacco use

Diagnosing Diabetic Retinopathy

Regular dilated eye exams are the best way to diagnose diabetic retinopathy. Early detection and treatment strategies for diabetic retinopathy are 90% effective in preventing severe vision loss. If you have diabetes current national guidelines recommend a dilated eye exam at least once per year.

Preventing Diabetic Retinopathy

Yearly dilated eye exams can help prevent severe vision loss from diabetic retinopathy. Controlling blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol can help reduce the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Healthy lifestyle choices, including diet and exercise, are often the best way to control blood sugar levels. Although, some individuals will also need medications to properly control blood sugar levels.

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