It’s National Diabetes Month (Nov.) and the national eye institute is sharing advice to help prevent diabetic retinopathy -- the leading cause of blindness adults age 20 to 74.
Dr. Suber Huang, an opthomologist, is chair of the National Eye Health Education Program. He says certain groups are at higher risk of diabetes, iincluding American Indians, African-American and Hispanic people … as well as a growing swath of the general public.
“If you don't think you're in optimal health; if you think you're heavier than you should be; if you think you might have elevated cholesterol; if you're not breathing as well or there's a history of diabetes; the thing to do is to get that checked,” said Huang.
The problem is, symptoms of diabetes are so mild you may not notice them until there’s already been tremendous damage.
“The longer you have it, the more cumulative damage occurs and through cumulative damage, you can have problems with the end organs,” said Huang. “These end organs are the eye, of course, thats what we're talking about today, but also almost on a similar incidence, the kidney and peripeheral vascular disease - your feet, toes and so forth are equally at risk.”
Dr. Suber Huang recommends an annual dilated eye exams, as well as regular checkups with your family doctor.
“About 95% of the eye problems that develop can be successfully treated. and if successfully treated -- if you think of an old house or an old car, you can often do things if you catch it early enough,” said Huang. “Left to its own devices -- water is pouring through the roof -- then there's extensive damage and whatever repairs you make may not be as good or long-lasting or preserve vision,” he said.
Huang says there are now more ways to prevent and treat diabetes and prevent permanent damage – prevention techniques developed just in the past ten years.
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