Approximately 16 million Americans have diabetes. Each year, 12,000 to 24,000 people lose their sight because of diabetes.
Diabetic eye disease includes diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among working age people in the United States. In diabetic retinopathy, leakage and hemorrhage occur in the retina (the back of the eye) leading to the loss of vision. Laser treatment at the appropriate time can prevent bleeding within the eye and vision loss from macular edema (swelling in the 20/20 spot of the retina). Additionally, people with diabetes are more likely to get cataracts at a younger age and are twice as likely to develop glaucoma.
It is essential that anyone with diabetes have an annual eye exam by an ophthalmologist who is trained to diagnose and treat diabetic retinopathy.