National Diabetes Awareness Month is an annual campaign throughout the month of November in the USA to bring awareness to the growing prevalence of diabetes, the health risks associated with it, raise funds for research into the condition, and support people living with it. This year the days and dates are Monday-Tuesday, 1-30 November 2021.
Diabetes is one of the fastest-growing, preventable medical conditions in the world.
According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), at 31 million the US has one of the highest prevalences of diabetes in the world.
Recent research by the Diabetes Research Institute published in 2020 also points to some alarming statistics. Among the US population overall the prevalence of diagnosed and undiagnosed people with the condition for 2018 were (crude estimates):
- 34.2 million people of all ages—or 10.5% of the US population—had diabetes
- 34.1 million adults aged 18 years or older—or 13.0% of all US adults—had diabetes
- 7.3 million adults aged 18 years or older who met laboratory criteria for diabetes were not aware of or did not report having diabetes. This number represents 2.8% of all US adults and 21.4% of all US adults with diabetes.
The percentage of adults with diabetes increased with age, reaching 26.8% among those aged 65 years or older.
Diabetes also affects different ethnic groups differently. The prevalence of diagnosed diabetes was highest among American Indians/Alaska Natives (14.7%), people of Hispanic origin (12.5%), and non-Hispanic blacks (11.7%), followed by non-Hispanic Asians (9.2%) and non-Hispanic whites (7.5%).
Diabetes is a condition where the body can’t naturally control the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Blood sugar levels rise and in turn cause medical complications. Diabetics are likely to be diagnosed with more medical problems than the average man or woman, but many are preventable. These include stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, eye problems, dental disease, and foot problems.
Many people with diabetes-related eye disease are at risk for vision loss; the good news is that it is preventable with early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up care.
What Is Diabetic Eye Disease?
Diabetic eye disease is a term for several eye problems that can all result from diabetes. Diabetic eye diseases include:
- diabetic retinopathy
- diabetic macular edema
Diabetes can cause vision problems even if you do not have a form of diabetic eye disease. These can include:
- Blurry vision. If your blood sugar levels change quickly, it can affect the shape of your eye’s lens, causing blurry vision. Your vision goes back to normal after your blood sugar stabilizes. Have your blood sugar controlled before getting your eyeglasses prescription checked. This ensures you receive the correct prescription.
- Double vision. Diabetes can damage the nerves that move the eyes and help them work together. This nerve damage can lead to double vision.
Diabetic eye care can be controlled by using these seven tips to protect your eyes:
- Schedule appointments with your eye doctor at least once a year so they can spot any problem early and treat it. During your exam, your eye doctor will use special drops to widen (dilate) your pupils and check the blood vessels in your eyes for early signs of damage. Including a retinal image during a yearly exam is wise so as to have a pictorial record showing changes year to year.
- Keep your blood sugar under control. If you do that, you can slow any damage to the tiny blood vessels in your eyes. Several times a year, you should have an A1c blood test. It shows your blood sugar levels over the past 2 or 3 months. Your result should be around 7% or less.
- Keep high blood pressure in check. It can lead to eye disease, too. If you have high blood pressure and diabetes, you need to be even more careful about your health. Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure at every visit. For most people with diabetes, it should be less than 130/80.
- Check your cholesterol levels. All it takes is a blood test to find out how much “bad” LDL and “good” HDL cholesterol you have. Too much LDL is linked to blood vessel damage.
- Eat for wellness. Go for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. If that’s a big change for you, you can get ideas and encouragement from a nutritionist. You can also ask your doctor’s advice about when you should eat and how much is OK if you take insulin.
- If you smoke, quit. Lighting up causes problems with your blood vessels, which makes you more likely to end up with eye trouble. It’s not easy to kick the habit, so don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for help. Or go to a support group or quit smoking program.
- Move more. Exercise can have a big influence on blood sugar. If you use insulin or medication to lower your blood sugar, ask your doctor when you should check your levels before and during your workouts. Also, ask what type of workout you should do.