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Diabetes is not kind to the eye

proliferative diabetic retinopathy

An eye with proliferative diabetic retinopathy where abnormal new vessels have bled and caused a tractional retinal detachment

Every summer I give a lecture at the Bay Area Ophthalmology Course on diabetic retinopathy. This is an important topic as 25.6 million people in the US aged 20 years or older have diabetes. Diabetes can do a lot of potentially bad things to the body, including:

  • 28.5% of those 40 and over will have diabetic retinopathy (eye damage)
  • 8.5% of those 35 and over will have a stroke
  • 20.4% of those 35 and over will have cardiovascular disease
  • 33.4% will have kidney disease
  • 60 – 70% will have nerve damage

The root cause of all of these potential problems is an elevated blood glucose. When sugar levels in the blood is high, there are increased advanced glycosylation end products (AGEs). AGEs damage blood vessels and can affect all fine blood vessels in the body (the eyes, kidneys, heart, and nerves).

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the US in those less than 50 years old. There are about 12,000 to 24,000 new cases of blindness each year in the US that is due to diabetes.

Prevention is Key

The good news is that if you control your blood sugar (aim for a HbA1C < 7.0), you will have a 75% risk reduction of developing diabetic retinopathy. Even if you have diabetic retinopathy, if you get your blood glucose under tight control, you will have a 50% risk reduction of retinopathy progression.

The end goal is to reduce vision loss and to avoid costly treatments that could potentially expose you to harmful side effects.

Please feel free to leave comments or questions below.


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This entry was posted on September 4, 2012 by in The Eye and tagged , , , , , , , , .

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