There are more than 37 million American adults living with diabetes, a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy.
Robert A. Gabbay, M.D., Ph.D.
Chief Scientific and Medical Officer, American Diabetes Association
Living well with diabetes requires people to make healthy food choices, stay at a healthy weight, move their bodies every day, and take their medications — even when they feel good. With a little diligence and the help of a diabetes care team — which can include a primary care provider, endocrinologist, diabetes care and education specialists, and optometrist or ophthalmologist, among others — diabetes can be properly managed.
Many people don’t know that living with diabetes also means that they are at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, an eye condition that can cause vision loss and blindness. Other diabetes-related eye disease — such as macular edema, glaucoma, and cataracts — can also occur. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults, but you may not have any obvious signs or symptoms in the early stages, which is why finding it early is critical to help protect your vision. In fact, early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up care can dramatically reduce a person’s risk for severe vision loss from diabetes-related eye disease by 95%.
An annual dilated eye exam is one way for eye care professionals, such as optometrists and ophthalmologists, to check for eye disease early on. That’s why organizations like the American Diabetes Association®, VSP® Vision Care, and Regeneron are collaborating on major initiatives, like Focus on Diabetes™ (FOD), that work to increase awareness about diabetes and eye health and promote the importance of annual eye exams.
In fact, May is Healthy Vision Month,and FOD is raising awareness of the importance of prioritizing eye health and the steps one can take to maintain it.
“My advice to people living with diabetes is to make your health a priority, get your eyes checked regularly, and make sure that they’re doing all the necessary tests at your eye exams,” says Rachael Chalcraft, an FOD champion who has lived with type 1 diabetes for 27 years. “For anyone who has been diagnosed with eye complications, connect with other people who have been through it, such as through the FOD initiative. You’re not alone!”
Be sure to visit eyehealth.diabetes.org to take the diabetic retinopathy risk test and learn about upcoming events, tools, and actions you can take throughout the month and onward.