Approximately 16 million Americans have diabetes, and 5 million are at risk for vision loss because they don’t know they have the disease. Each year, 12,000 to 24,000 individuals lose their sight due to diabetes. Diabetic eye disease, a group of eye problems that affect those with diabetes, includes diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma. The most common of these is diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of new cases of blindness among working-age people in the United States.
Diabetic retinopathy is a potentially vision threatening condition in which the blood vessels inside the retina become damaged from the high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes. The longer a patient has diabetes, the greater their chance of developing diabetic retinopathy. More than one third of those diagnosed with diabetes don’t get the recommended vision care.
The risk of developing diabetic retinopathy increases with the number of years a patent has had diabetes. After 15 years with the disease, almost 80 percent of people with Type 1 diabetes have some form of diabetic eye disease.
Diabetic retinopathy often has no symptoms when it first develops. That’s why early detection of diabetic eye disease is essential in preventing vision loss.
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