A: November is National Diabetes Month, and Dr. Howie encourages anyone who has, or may be at risk for, diabetes to have an annual eye examination.
“Diabetes affects 18.2 million Americans, 5.2 million of which may not even know they have the disease,” Dr. Howie says. “One of the health problems associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy, a disease of the eye which can cause blindness.”
Diabetic retinopathy can weaken and cause changes in the blood vessels that nourish the retina. Symptoms may include blurred vision, cloudiness and/or “floaters.” Diabetes also increases a person’s risk for developing other eye diseases. For example, persons living with diabetes are 40 percent more likely to develop glaucoma and 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts.
“The early stages of diabetic retinopathy may produce no visual symptoms at all,” Dr. Howie says. “That is why it is so important for anyone who has diabetes or a family history of diabetes to have a yearly comprehensive eye health examination. Early detection and treatment are essential because once damage has occurred, the effects are usually permanent.”