Is The Next Epidemic Already Here?

Click to read more about Dr. Cohen

By Stephen Cohen, O.D. – 

Diabetes is considered to become the next epidemic in our country, having increased by more than 25 percent in just the past 10 years. Seventeen million people are diabetic, and about one-third do not know it.  Diabetics are at risk for heart disease, kidney disease, loss of a limb and blindness.  National programs are in place to increase public awareness about preventable diseases like diabetes, and here’s my reminder to you that November is Diabetes Awareness Month.

Every year, as many as 24,000 people go blind as a result of eye damage (diabetic retinopathy) brought on by diabetes.  It is estimated that 95 percent of vision loss can be prevented through early detection and treatment.  Diabetic retinopathy typically shows no early warning signs.  Without timely treatment, there can be fluctuations of vision and changes in your eye prescription, as well as increased chances of developing glaucoma, macular degeneration and/or cataracts.  Almost 30 percent of diabetics haven’t had an eye exam within the past year, but prevention starts with early detection through a comprehensive eye exam.  Only your eye doctor can fully evaluate your eyes and detect the early signs of retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts.

There are several things you can do to decrease the chance of developing diabetic eye disease.  Keeping blood sugar levels within the target range and without significant fluctuations throughout the day can reduce the damage to blood vessels in the eye, thereby reducing damage to sensitive ocular structures.  As a matter of fact, a slightly higher but stable A1C level will be more tolerated by the eyes than a lower average A1C with lots of wide fluctuations in levels. Controlling high blood pressure (which can further damage vessels) is also important.  A healthy diet and exercise program are obvious, but underutilized defenses such as an annual eye exam needs to be near the top of the list.  Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth a lifetime of vision.

Leave a Reply