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Even many individuals with the disease are not informed that diabetes can lead to vision threatening eye damage. A recent study by the National Institute of Health (NIH) indicates that diabetes is the leading cause of complete vision loss among those aged 20 to 74 years old. One of the risks of diabetes is retinal damage caused by increased pressure in the blood vessels of the eye, which is called diabetic retinopathy. This condition causes severe vision impairment and even blindness. Anyone with the disease is at risk and it is projected to affect 11 million people by 2030.

Early on, this condition is often asymptomatic. When the pressure in the retinal blood vessels builds up they start to leak resulting in permanent damage to the retina. This will result in eventual blindness if it is not treated.

Because symptoms are often not noticed until significant damage is done it is crucial to see your optometrist on a yearly basis to perform a comprehensive eye exam if you are diabetic. If you have diabetes and you notice any sort of vision problems, such as fluctuations in eyesight, floaters, double vision, shadows or spots or any pain in your eye make sure to see your optometrist. In addition to diabetic retinopathy, diabetics are at increased risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma.

All diabetic eye diseases are more damaging when the disease is uncontrolled. Controlling your sugar levels through diet, exercise and staying healthy and yearly eye exams is the best defense for preventing vision loss.

This month, spread awareness of the risks of diabetic retinopathy and consult with your optometrist if you have any questions. In this case, knowledge really is the key to vision.