Did you know that the eyes are a window into your overall health?
In fact, eye care providers frequently work with primary care providers in co-management of patients. They can screen for an array of systemic conditions, including diabetes and hypertension. This is done through comprehensive eye exams with careful examination of the back of the eyes. In some cases, eye care providers can detect diabetes even in its early stages.

What IS diabetes?

Diabetes (or as its formerly known diabetes mellitus) is a metabolic disease that negatively impacts the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels. There are three main types of diabetes:

  • Diabetes Mellitus Type I (more commonly manifests during childhood)
  • Diabetes Mellitus Type II (more commonly manifests during adulthood)
  • Gestational Diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy)

(If you would like to learn more about the different types of diabetes, please click HERE to visit the American Diabetes Association website)

According the American Diabetes Association, approximately 30.3 million Americans (9.4% of the population) had diabetes in 2015. It is estimated that 1.5 million Americans are newly diagnosed every year. In the United State, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death. If left untreated, diabetes can cause complications to just about any organ in the body, including the kidneys, heart, blood vessels, and eyes…and that’s just to name a few!

Who is at RISK?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Poor physical activity
  • Age (>45 years old)
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Family history
  • If you are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, Pacific Islander, or Asian American

(Source: https://3c1703fe8d.site.internapcdn.net/newman/gfx/news/hires/2012/unearthingap.jpg)

How is diabetes MANAGED and TREATED?

In general, diabetes is managed by either one or a combination of the following:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Oral medications
  • Insulin

However, this can vary from person to person. Patients usually work closely with their primary care provider or endocrinologist to adequately manage their diabetes.

Can diabetes affect my EYES?

Yes, it definitely can!

Diabetes can damage the small blood vessels in the back of the eye. If this happens, the condition is called diabetic retinopathy. Additionally, patients with uncontrolled diabetes may experience a variety of signs and symptoms, including but not limited to:

  • Double vision
  • Large changes in your glasses and contact lens prescription
  • Blurry vision
  • Retinal detachment
  • Cataracts

Experiencing any of these signs and/or symptoms warrants seeing an eye care provider (optometrists or ophthalmologists) as soon as possible. Although symptoms such as double vision may be temporary, others, such as a retinal detachment, are permanent and vision threatening!

(Source: https://www.whatoptometristsdo.com)

What can I do?

Be proactive about your health! It’s never too late to start eating healthier and increasing your physical activity. Make sure to also see your primary care provider on a yearly basis for updated blood work and a physical exam. You might be fine today but a lot can change in just one year. So what are you waiting for? Schedule your annual eye exam today 😉

-Dr. Eugene Pack

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