Regular eye exams are one of the best ways to avoid diabetic eye diseases

Throughout American Diabetes Month this November, and all year round, ophthalmologists across Oklahoma are reminding the 25.8 million people in the United States living with diabetes –the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults age 20 to 74 years[i] - of the key steps they should take to prevent vision loss.

Diabetes is a major risk factor for cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is more than twice as common in Mexican Americans and nearly three times as common in African Americans as in non-Hispanic whites.[ii],[iii] Thankfully, diabetic eye diseases can be prevented and their progression can be slowed through early detection and diligent diabetes care. Yet, only 10 percent of people with diabetes in medically underserved communities get screened yearly for diabetic retinopathy.[iv]

To help prevent vision loss from diabetic eye disease, Oklahoma Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that people with diabetes take the following steps:

1.       Get a comprehensive dilated eye examination from your ophthalmologist once a year, regardless of your age.

In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy often has no symptoms. A dilated eye exam allows ophthalmologists – medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases – to examine the retina and optic nerve more thoroughly for signs of damage before changes in vision occur. Regular monitoring of eye health allows ophthalmologists to begin treatment as soon as possible if signs of disease do appear. Women with diabetes who become pregnant may need additional eye exams throughout their pregnancy, as pregnancy can sometimes worsen diabetic retinopathy.

2.       Maintain close-to-normal blood glucose (sugar) levels.

High blood glucose damages the blood vessels in the eyes. This damage can result in swelling in the retina and the development of abnormal blood vessels that can bleed and form scar tissue. Additionally, when blood glucose levels are too high, the shape of the eye’s lens can be affected, causing blurry vision that goes back to normal after the blood glucose levels are stabilized.

3.       Maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

High blood pressure and high cholesterol can increase the risk of eye disease and vision loss. Keeping both under control will help the eyes as well as overall health.

  1. Quit smoking.

Smokers are at an increased risk for diabetic retinopathy and other diabetes-related eye diseases.

  1. Exercise regularly.

Regular exercise can help the eyes stay as healthy as possible while helping to control blood glucose levels.

The best way to prevent vision loss from diabetes is through careful management.  To learn more about diabetic eye disease, visit