Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye conditions (diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, glaucoma) that affect anyone with diabetes. Damage to small blood vessels in the retina can lead to diabetic retinopathy – the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes. According to the National Eye Institute, it is also the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness among working-age adults. Diabetes can also cause diabetic macular edema or swelling of the central part of the retina. Diabetics are 2-5 times more likely to develop a cataract and at a younger age than people without diabetes. Glaucoma is also more common in people that have diabetes – the risk is nearly doubled.
40-45% of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy but only about half are aware of it. Because diabetic retinopathy often goes unnoticed until vision loss occurs, people with diabetes should get a comprehensive DILATED eye exam at lease once a year.