Sightseeing. A periodic tour of CVI news, views and events.

Diabetes Awareness Month

Image of the pieces of a Prodigy Voice Blood Glucose test displayed on a table

Do you know someone who is living with diabetes? It’s likely you do since according to the American Diabetes Association, more than 30 million Americans are living with diabetes and 84 million are at risk, totaling nearly half of the U.S. adult population. Unfortunately, diabetes can lead to other health complications. Diabetic retinopathy, a complication from diabetes, is one of those complications and is the number one cause of new blindness in adults.

In honor of Diabetes Awareness Month, CVI wants to make sure you know the facts about diabetic retinopathy and the risk factors.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy? It is when diabetes damages the blood vessels in the retina, the light sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. There are four stages of retinopathy:

  1. Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy
  2. Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy
  3. Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy, and
  4. Proliferative Retinopathy.

The first three stages require no treatment, other than the typical diabetic control over blood sugar, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. Proliferative retinopathy, the most advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy where fragile blood vessels grow in response to the blocked vessels, is treated with a scatter laser treatment which will help shrink the abnormal blood vessels that occur at this stage. This treatment works better before these abnormal, fragile vessels have started to bleed. If the bleeding is severe, you may need a vitrectomy, a procedure where the blood is removed from the center of your eye.

What are the factors that influence whether someone gets retinopathy?

  • Blood Sugar Control
  • Blood Pressure Levels
  • How long you have had diabetes
  • Your genes

Because diabetic retinopathy often has no early warning signs, the best thing you can do to catch it early is to have a dilated eye exam each year. Those who have already been diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy may need an eye exam more often. Studies show that better control of blood sugar levels slows the progression of retinopathy and decreases other diabetes-related health risks as well. Also, people with proliferative retinopathy can reduce the risk of blindness by 95% with timely treatment and appropriate care.

The most important thing to know about any visual impairment diagnosis is that there are always options for support and rehabilitation. In 2017, eight percent of clients served by CVI were diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy and were able to continue to live independently through skills learned in our programs and with the assistance of accessible diabetes supplies and devices, which are available to purchase in the VisAbility Hub located on the first floor at CVI.

If you want more information on diabetes, diabetic retinopathy or Diabetes Awareness Month, visit the American Diabetes Association.