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November is National Diabetes Eye Month
Health advice
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Diabetes Eye Month is promoted because every year about 25,000 people lose their sight as a result of diabetic eye disease — a leading cause of blindness in the United States. Of the 16 million people in America with diabetes, nearly half will develop diabetic eye disease.
The major cause of blindness in people with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a term used for all the abnormalities of the small blood vessels of the retina caused by diabetes, such as weakening of blood vessel walls or leakage from blood vessels.
Even more alarming is the fact there are about 54 million people who have pre-diabetes in our country. Pre-diabetes means a person’s blood-glucose levels are higher than normal.
Without effective treatment, they can eventually develop diabetes. In addition to causing high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, diabetes can also contribute to eye disease and blindness. Types of diabetic eye disease include:
 1. Cataracts: Clouding of the eye’s lens. Cataracts develop at an earlier age in people with diabetes and diabetics are 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts
2. Glaucoma: Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up in the eye. In most cases, the pressure causes drainage of the aqueous humor to slow down so that it builds up in the anterior chamber. The pressure pinches the blood vessels that carry blood to the retina and optic nerve. Vision is gradually lost because the retina and nerve are damaged. People with diabetes are 40 percent more likely to suffer from glaucoma than people without diabetes. The longer someone has diabetes, the more common glaucoma is. Risk also increases with age and improper management of diabetes.
3. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in American adults. Most people with diabetic retinopathy don’t notice changes in their vision at first. But over time, diabetic retinopathy can get worse and cause vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes and it does so by weakening the small blood vessels in the retina. Retinal-blood vessels may break down, leak or become blocked, which causes an impairment of vision over time. Without treatment, it can result in permanent vision loss and in some cases, blindness. Once vision is lost it can never be restored.
All people with diabetes (both type 1 and type 2) are at risk. That’s why everyone with diabetes should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. The longer someone has diabetes, the more likely it becomes that he or she will get diabetic retinopathy. Between 40 to 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy. If you have diabetic retinopathy, your doctor can recommend treatment to help prevent its progression, if it is caught in time.
Because of the damage diabetes can do to your health and sight if not caught and treated in time, IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that you be checked and get on a treatment regime if you have this disease. You are at risk of developing diabetes if you:
1. Are older than 45.
2. Are overweight.
3. Have a close family member, like a parent, brother or sister, who has, or had, diabetes.
4. Have had diabetes when you were pregnant.  
5. Are African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American or Pacific Islander, or Native American.

Symptoms that may be indicative of diabetes are:
• Frequent urination
• Excessive thirst
• Unexplained weight loss         
• Extreme hunger
• Sudden vision changes         
• Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
• Feeling very tired much of the time     
• Very dry skin
• Sores that are slow to heal         
• More infections than usual

Please see your healthcare provider now if you suspect you may have Diabetes.  Complications from diabetes may be prevented if diabetes is treated and your blood sugar maintained at a healthy level. Most of the damage that is done from diabetes, including loss of sight, cannot be repaired if you wait too long.
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