March is Diabetes Awareness Month | News, Sports, Jobs

March is Diabetes Awareness Month and the Chautauqua Blind Association works to make sure people with diabetes take care of their eyes too.

More than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes. One in four people do not know they have diabetes. Diabetes is more common in certain populations such as African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders.

Diabetes is more likely in people 45 or older, who have a family history of the disease, who have high blood pressure, or who are overweight

The good news is that you can manage diabetes by taking good care of yourself by planning healthy meals, exercising regularly, and taking prescribed medications.

The prevention of diabetic eye diseases is a priority. Diabetes-related eye disease can prevent you from reading, seeing faces across the room, seeing at night, or even going blind.

Diabetes-related eye diseases can often be prevented or managed with a healthy lifestyle and annual visits to an eye doctor.

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of blindness in adults. It happens when high blood sugar damages the blood vessels in the retina, causing them to swell and leak, causing blurred vision. New abnormal blood vessels can also grow and create additional visual problems. Diabetic retinopathy often affects both eyes.

Diabetic retinopathy can develop in people with any type of diabetes, and the longer a person has had diabetes, the more likely they are to develop it. Additional risk factors include high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and being of certain ethnicities (African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American/Alaska Native).

Be sure to call an eye doctor if there are sudden changes in vision. Noticeable changes may include blurring, smudging, flashing, blind spots, difficulty reading or doing detail work, distortion.

Diabetic retinopathy has two stages of development

The early stage, called non-proliferative, occurs when retinal blood vessels weaken and swell, forming pockets that can leak blood and other fluids, causing swelling of the macula (macular edema) and distortion of the macula. vision. Macular edema develops in about 50% of people with diabetic retinopathy.

The late stage, called proliferative, is when the retina begins to grow new blood vessels, which are fragile and can bleed into the vitreous (clear gel between the lens and the retina). With minor bleeding, one may see a few dark spots floating around in their vision, but if there is a lot of bleeding, vision may be completely blocked.

Later stage symptoms may include blurred vision, difficulty seeing colors, loss of vision, dark or blank areas of vision, dark spots or shapes in vision (floaters).

Diabetes-related cataracts can occur when the lens of the eye, which is normally clear, becomes cloudy. It is normal for the lens to cloud over as you age, but people with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts, and often at a younger age. High blood sugar can cause lentil deposits to build up

Cataract risk factors include excessive sun exposure over time, smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity.

The only treatment for cataracts is surgery, but sometimes it is not immediately necessary. Using brighter lighting and appropriate sunglasses can help, but if these interventions aren’t enough to prevent cataracts from impacting daily life, it may be time for surgery. .

Diabetes-related glaucoma is another set of eye diseases that can result from diabetes. Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve is damaged, usually due to excessive pressure in the eye. Some types of glaucoma have no symptoms and vision loss can happen very slowly so that it is almost unnoticeable.

With diabetes, a person is twice as likely to develop open-angle glaucoma, which is the most common type. Additional risk factors include a family history of glaucoma, being over 60, and being of African American, Asian, or Hispanic/Latino descent.

Another type of diabetes-related glaucoma is neovascular glaucoma, which can sometimes occur with diabetic retinopathy and creates new abnormal blood vessels that grow on the iris (colored part of the eye). The new vessels can block the movement of fluids out of the eye and increase the pressure inside.

Although glaucoma cannot be prevented, early detection and treatment can prevent it from getting worse. Treatment options include the use of medications, laser treatment, and surgery.

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Julio V. Miller