Don’t have diabetes? Arm yourself with information! Simple steps can protect your health and vision. Al Ruíz, a Dallas accountant, considered himself lucky to have perfect eyesight. While most of his co-workers wore eyeglasses or contact lenses, he was proud to have never had a vision problem. In fact, he hadn’t seen an eye care professional in several years. So he became worried when, during his drive home from work, signs along the highway began to blur. Reluctantly, he decided that it was time to have his eyes checked. Al sat in stunned silence in the office of Dr. Jordan, his optometrist, a few weeks later. After a thorough eye exam, Al learned that he suffered from an eye disease called diabetic retinopathy. According to the doctor, he was also diabetic. Diabetes is a grow- ing epidemic that carries the risk of glaucoma, cataracts and the most com- mon diabetic eye disease, retinopathy. Untreated diabetes can lead to com- plete vision loss, many times without warning symptoms. Yet one-quarter of the 23.6 million Americans over age 20 who have diabetes are unaware that they have the disease. Al was lucky after all: He experienced symptoms, which led him to prompt treatment and the prevention of significant vision loss. How Diabetes Affects Eyes Prevent Blindness America has desig- nated November as Diabetic Eye Disease Month to warn Americans of the potentially blinding effects of diabetic retinopathy. This disease is the leading cause of new blindness cases among adults aged 20-74. Up to 24,000 Americans are blinded by diabetic retinopathy each year. The American Optometric Association predicts that by 2050, the number of Americans over 40 years old with diabetic retinopathy will triple to 16 million. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that allows the body to use blood sugar for energy. It is characterized by high levels of blood sugar, which can cause changes in the blood vessels of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that is necessary for good vision. In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, small blood vessels in the eye swell. As the disease pro- gresses, some vessels that nourish the retina become blocked. Abnormal new blood vessels may begin to grow on the surface of the retina to replace the blocked vessels. The new vessels, however, have thin, fragile walls. If they leak blood, severe vision loss and even blindness can result. Testing is Essential The only way that diabetic retinopa- thy can be diagnosed is through a comprehensive eye exam. Diabetics are sometimes first diagnosed in an optometrist’s office when diabetic retinopathy is discovered. When Dr. Jordan saw bleeding in the back of Al’s eyes during his exam, she referred him for a follow-up test called a fluorescein angiogram. During the procedure, dye is injected into the patient’s arm to allow the doctor to see a detailed image of the eye’s blood vessels. Al learned that he was one of the 40 to 45 percent of diabetics who already have some degree of retinopathy at the time of 9 FAM HEALTH DiABETiC Retinopathy: Why You Should Care /2016/04/11/diabetic-retinopathy-why-you-should-care/ 1. Sources: American Optometric Association, American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Diabetes Association, U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Prevent Blindness America, National Eye Institute Davis Vision does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. More information is available at Site Content & Member Care. continued on page 14