Both young adults and older people with diabetes are at risk for diabetic complications. The most common cause of death in people with diabetes is heart disease, but diabetics are also susceptible to diabetic kidney disease, nerve damage, and stroke. They’re also at high risk for diabetic retinal disease – a condition also known as diabetic retinopathy. How common is diabetic retinopathy and is there anything a diabetic can do to protect their eyesight?
How Common is Diabetic Retinopathy?
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the prevalence of diabetic retinal disease to be surprisingly high, particularly among older people with diabetes. In a 1,000 person study that looked at the prevalence of diabetic retinal disease among those over the age of forty, three out of ten had documented diabetic retinopathy – which was confirmed by photographs taken of the eye. The risk of diabetic retinal disease was higher in men and black individuals – and lower in women.
What Factors Increase the Risk of Diabetic Retinal Disease?
According to this study, people at highest risk for diabetic retinopathy are those with long-standing diabetes, diabetics who require insulin, males, and people who have a high systolic blood pressure or an elevated hemoglobin A1c level. Fortunately, some of these risk factors can be controlled through medications and lifestyle changes.
Lowering the Risk of Diabetic Retinal Disease
Diabetics who have elevated blood pressure readings can reduce their risk of diabetic retinal disease by making healthy lifestyle changes or taking medications to bring down their pressure. This will also help to reduce their risk of heart disease and diabetic kidney disease too.
Hemoglobin A1c levels can be lowered by getting blood sugars under better control through diet, exercise, and medications or insulin – when necessary. Studies show that keeping blood sugars as close to normal as possible reduces the risk of diabetic retinopathy – as well as its progression.
One of the most important things a diabetic can do is get regular, dilated eye exams – at least once a year. Older people with diabetes and those who already have retinal changes may need them more often.
Is Diabetic Retinopathy Common: The Bottom Line?
Diabetic retinal disease is surprisingly common – and it can lead to complete visual loss. Don’t let diabetic retinopathy destroy your ability to see the world. Get a dilated eye exam at least yearly if you have diabetes.
Eurek Alert website. “Prevalence of eye disorder high among older US adults with diabetes”