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Annual Eye Exams Can Save Sight for People with Diabetes

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People who have diabetic retinopathy often don't notice changes in their vision in the disease's early stages. But as it progresses, diabetic retinopathy usually causes vision loss that in many cases cannot be reversed.

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Between 40 and 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy, although only about half are aware of it. The longer a person has had diabetes, the higher their risk of developing the eye condition increases. What’s more, diabetic retinopathy can cause damage without any outward symptoms.

“You could have vision threatening diabetic retinopathy and not even know it,” says Rebecca Taylor, M.D., a comprehensive ophthalmologist practicing in Nashville, Tennessee.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology currently recommends that people with type 1 diabetes have annual screenings for diabetic retinopathy beginning 5 years after the onset of their disease, and that those with type 2 diabetes should have an examination at the time of diagnosis and at least once a year thereafter. Diabetic retinopathy can develop in anyone—even those who manage their diabetes carefully.

The good news is that early detection of diabetic retinopathy requires simpler treatment. For some, all that’s needed is guidance toward better blood sugar and blood pressure control, says Dr. Taylor. For others, annual eye exams can be a serious wake up call.

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The above story is based on materials provided by geteyesmart.org.
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