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Home » News » Do You Know the Facts About Diabetic Eye Disease?

Do You Know the Facts About Diabetic Eye Disease?

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We all know why we need to wear sunglasses and sunscreen in the summer. Winter, however, can be deceiving. It's an illusion to assume that we are safe from sunburns during the colder season.

Snow acts as a powerful mirror for sunlight and magnifies the effects of UV rays which would otherwise be absorbed by the ground. As a result, the eyes are exposed to both the UV radiation bouncing back from the snowy carpet and the rays shining down directly from the sun.





If your family is skiing or snowboarding up in the mountains, you need to be even more careful! UV rays are more powerful at higher altitudes. Another important factor to remember is that ultraviolet radiation penetrates through clouds, so even if the sun is hidden behind them, it can still damage your eyes.

Prevent overexposure to sunlight by wearing sunglasses that absorb at least 95% of ultraviolet radiation when you go outside, no matter what time of year it is. Even though you want to look great in your shades, the most important part of choosing sunglasses is making sure they provide adequate protection against UV. Make sure the lenses are 100% UV blocking by looking for an indication that they block all light up to 400 nanometers - UV400. The good news is you don't necessarily have to pay more for full coverage for your eyes. Dozens of reasonably priced options exist that still provide total ultraviolet protection.

Another important factor in selecting sun wear is the size of the lenses. You want to make sure your glasses cover as much of the area around your eyes as possible. The more coverage you have, the less harmful radiation will be able to penetrate. Lenses that wrap around the temples will also prevent UV waves from entering from the sides.

If you like to ski or frolic in the snowy hills, you should be aware that the sun's rays are stronger at higher elevations, so you need to be especially careful to keep your eyes shaded on the slopes. In addition to sunglasses, it's a good idea to put on a wide brimmed hat that covers your eyes.

Make a point to be knowledgeable about proper eye protection throughout the year. Don't forget to wear your sunglasses.

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If you or a loved one suffers from diabetes, awareness of the threat of vision loss due to diabetic eye disease should be a top priority. Don't wait until it is too late to learn about the risks.

Here are eight true and false questions about diabetic eye disease to test your knowledge. If you have any questions, contact your eye care professional to find out more.

1) Diabetic Retinopathy is the only eye and vision risk associated with diabetes.

FALSE: People with diabetes have a higher risk of not only losing sight through diabetic retinopathy, but also a greater chance of developing other eye diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma. People with diabetes are 40% more likely to develop glaucoma and this number increases with age and the amount of time the individual has diabetes. Diabetics are also 60% more likely to develop cataracts and at an earlier age than those without diabetes. Additionally, during the advanced stages of diabetes, people can also lose corneal sensitivity and develop double vision from eye muscle palsies.

2) Diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness.

True: In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults age 20 to 74.

3) With proper treatment, diabetic eye disease is reversible.

FALSE: Although early detection and timely treatment can greatly reduce the chances of vision loss from diabetic eye disease, without prompt and preventative treatment measures, diabetic eye disease can result in permanent vision loss and even blindness. Currently, there is no cure that reverses lost eyesight from diabetic retinopathy; however, there are a variety of low vision aids that can improve quality of life for those with vision loss.

4) People who have good control of their diabetes and their blood glucose levels are not at high risk for diabetic eye disease.

FALSE: While studies do show that proper management of blood sugar levels in diabetics can slow the onset and progression of diabetic retinopathy, there is a still a higher risk of developing diabetic eye disease. Age and length of the disease can be factors for eye diseases such as glaucoma and cataracts. The risk of diabetic retinopathy can be influenced by factors such as blood sugar control, blood pressure levels, how long the person has had diabetes and genetics.

5) You can always prevent diabetic eye disease by paying attention to the early warning signs

FALSE: Oftentimes there aren't any early warning signs of diabetic eye disease and vision loss only starts to become apparent when the disease is already at an advanced and irreversible stage.

6) A yearly, dilated eye exam can help prevent vision loss through diabetic eye disease.

TRUE: Diabetics should get a dilated eye exam at least once a year. Since diabetic eye disease often has no symptoms, routine eye exams are critical for early detection and treatment. Everyone with diabetes should get an eye examination through dilated pupils every year, because it can reduce the risk of blindness from diabetic eye disease by up to 95%.

7) Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic eye disease.

TRUE: Everyone with diabetes – even gestational diabetes - is at risk and should have a yearly eye exam. In fact, 40% to 45% of those diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy.

8) Smoking increases the risk of diabetic eye disease.

TRUE: In addition to getting regular eye exams, stop smoking, partake in daily physical activity, maintain a healthy weight and control blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol: they all help reduce the risks of eye disease.

Whatever your score on the quiz above, the most important take-away is that if you have diabetes, even if you aren't having any symptoms of vision loss: make an appointment for a comprehensive, dilated eye exam every year. It could save your sight.