Diabetic Retinopathy! The Leading Cause of Blindness in American Adults Age 20–74

Eye Diseases And Diabetes

Blinding eye diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts are common with people with diabetes. Recent studies have revealed low awareness of the issue among ethnicities at higher risk for diabetes. With the findings signaling that many Americans may not be defending themselves against diabetes-related vision loss, the American Academy of Ophthalmology encourages those with diabetes to take proactive steps to protect their vision.

Diabetes puts people at risk for nerve damage, cardiovascular disease, foot and limb injuries, vision problems, and other complications that arise from having uncontrolled blood sugar, as the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus guide cautions. Not to mention, diabetes raises a person’s risk of developing serious COVID-19, per the CDC.

It is estimated that 3 million people globally suffer from diabetic retinography. The World Health Organization reported that diabetics are the leading cause of new blindness cases for adults aged 20-74. There are approximately 422 million people globally with diabetes and the numbers are estimated to increase significantly in the next decade. It is projected that half of these cases will more than likely develop diabetic retinopathy (DR).

Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) is an eye disease that is a complication of diabetics caused by damage to blood vessels in the eyes. There are usually no symptoms or early warning signs.  When vision loss occurs it is too late to fully restore sight.

It has been reported that up to 21% of patients with type 2 diabetes have retinopathy at the time of the first diagnosis of diabetes. Most will develop some degree of retinopathy over time.  Fewer than 5% of people suffer severe vision loss even though many people with diabetes develop impaired vision.

The National Diabetic Association (ADA) reported that approximately 1 out of 5 Americans, 7.3 million people, have diabetics and do not know that they do. If left untreated, it can cause vision loss or even blindness.  To help you keep your vision healthy, here are five things the National Eye Institute (NEI) would like you to know about diabetic  eye disease:

Eye Problems:

  • Cataract
  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetic retinopathy (The leading cause of blindness in American adults age 20–74)

No Pain and Symptoms:

  • Diabetic retinopathy has no symptoms in the early stage
  • A person may not notice vision changes until the disease advances.
  • Blurred vision may occur when the macula swells from the leaking fluid (called macular edema). If new vessels have grown on the surface of the retina, they can bleed into the eye, blocking vision.


You are at risk if you have diabetes

  • You are at risk of having diabetic retinopathy.
  • The longer someone has diabetes, the more likely he or she will get this eye disease.
  • 40 and 45 percent of those with diagnosed diabetes have some degree of diabetic retinopathy.


Other symptoms:

  • Floaters (shapes that appear to be floating in the field of vision),
  • Blurred vision,
  • Dark areas of vision,
  • Reduced visual acuity or blindness in severe cases,
  • Distorted vision,
  • Impaired color vision, or
  • Seeing spots.
What you can do:
  • Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor
  • Focus on reaching and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Implement physical activity to your daily routine
  • Get a dilated eye exam
  • Control your ABC’s—A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels
  • Stop smoking


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