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Don't Lose Sight of Diabetic Eye Disease

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Information for People with Diabetes 1. What Is Diabetic Eye Disease?

Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may face as a complication of this disease. All can cause severe vision loss or even blindness.

Diabetic eye disease may include:

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  • Diabetic retinopathy -- damage to the blood vessels in the retina.
  • Cataract -- clouding of the eye's lens.
  • Glaucoma -- increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision.

Cataract and glaucoma also affect many people who do not have diabetes.

2. What Is the Most Common Diabetic Eye Disease?

Diabetic retinopathy. This disease is a leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, retinal blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. These changes may result in vision loss or blindness.

3. Who Is Most Likely to Get Diabetic Retinopathy?

Anyone with diabetes. The longer someone has diabetes, the more likely he or she will get diabetic retinopathy. Nearly half of all people with diabetes will develop some degree of diabetic retinopathy during their lifetime.

4. What Are Its Symptoms?

Often there are none in the early stages of the disease. Vision may not change until the disease becomes severe. Nor is there any pain.

Blurred vision may occur when the macula -- the part of the retina that provides sharp, central vision -- swells from the leaking fluid. This condition is called macular edema. If new vessels have grown on the surface of the retina, they can bleed into the eye, blocking vision. But, even in more advanced cases, the disease may progress a long way without symptoms. That is why regular eye examinations for people with diabetes are so important.

5. How Is It Detected?

If you have diabetes, you should have your eyes examined at least once a year.

Your eyes should be dilated during the exam. That means eyedrops are used to enlarge your pupils. This allows the eye care professional to see more of the inside of your eyes to check for signs of the disease.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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