Healthy Vision Month
Elaine* is a 46-year-old woman who is the primary cook for her family-owned restaurant. Her teenagers help out on the weekends, and her husband attends to the day-to-day tasks of the business. Elaine is known around the neighborhood for her flan– her own favorite dessert.
Elaine was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 15 years ago. Sometimes she gets off track with maintaining her blood sugar levels. However, as the business has grown, she has had less and less time to keep up with her health visits, including her annual visit with her eye doctor. Unfortunately, what Elaine does not realize is that diabetic retinopathy often has no symptoms until severe stages of the disease.
Diabetes has become an epidemic in the United States. From 1980 to 2010, the number of Americans with diabetes has more than quadrupled from 5.6 million to 25.8 million.1,2 The prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in people with diabetes is high. Of adults aged 40 and older, 4.2 million (28.5%) people with diabetes have diabetic retinopathy, and 655,000 (4.4% of those with diabetes) have vision threatening diabetic retinopathy.3
The rate of diabetic eye disease among racial and ethnic minorities is higher than among whites. For example, 38.8% of non-Hispanic black individuals with diabetes have diabetic retinopathy compared to 26.4% of non-Hispanic whites. Non-Hispanic blacks have vision threatening disease at rates triple that of their non-Hispanic white counterparts (9.3% vs. 3.2%). 3 Among Hispanics, the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy was found to be 46.9%, and the prevalence of vision threatening disease was 10.5%.4
Diabetic eye disease often has no symptoms until late in the disease. Diabetic retinopathy can cause new vessels to grow in the eye. When these vessels bleed, the blood can cause spots or “floaters” that block your vision. Blurred vision may be a sign for another type of diabetic eye disease that affects the center of vision. The disease is called diabetic macular edema (DME). Compliance with guidelines for annual diabetic eye examination is important for the prevention of vision threatening disease. Controlling blood sugar levels as well as maintaining your blood pressure and cholesterol at recommended levels are all important to both your vision and overall health.
* This is an example of what many people with diabetic retinopathy may experience. Models are for illustrative purposes only.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Number and Percentage of U.S. Population with Diagnosed Diabetes.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National diabetes fact sheet: national estimates and general information on diabetes and prediabetes in the United States, 2011. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011.
3 Zhang X, Saaddine JB, Chou CF, Cotch MF, Cheng YJ, Geiss LS, Gregg EW, Albright AL, Klein BE, Klein R. Prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in the United States, 2005-2008. JAMA. 2010 Aug 11;304(6):649–56.
4 Varma R, Torres M, Peña F, Klein R, Azen SP; Los Angeles Latino Eye Study Group. Prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in adult Latinos: the Los Angeles Latino eye study. Ophthalmology. 2004 Jul;111(7):1298–306.