November is Diabetes and Diabetic Eye Disease Month

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What is National Diabetes Month?

National Diabetes Month is sponsored by the American Diabetic Association (ADA) with a vision to a life free of diabetes and its consequences.  It is observed in November.  The ADA also sponsors a “Diabetes Alert Day” on the fourth Tuesday in March to raise awareness about the serious problems diabetes can cause and encourages you to take the Diabetes Risk Test.  

Learn more at STOP DIABETES

Diabetes takes a toll on your general health.  The heart, the kidneys, and the nervous system are affected.  Heart attacks, kidney failure and strokes and peripheral nerve damage can occur.  The eyes are at particular risk for hemorrhage and blindness if diabetes is not treated.  Read more about Diabetic Retinopathy below.

Where can I learn more?

The National Diabetes Education Program, a partnership of the NIH, CDC and other organizations uses National Diabetes Month to spotlight diabetes prevention and treatment.  The website has many tools for you to learn more about diabetes and plan your care (Make a Plan) to help you live a healthy longer life.      

American Diabetes Association or 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2383)
Living with Diabetes (CDC Website) 
Joslin Diabetes Center 
Taking Control of Your Diabetes 

What is Diabetic Eye Disease Month?

Diabetic Eye Disease month is selected to highlight diabetic retinopathy as “one of the most common and debilitating complications of diabetes”  Diabetes also causes other complications in the eye including cataracts, a clouding of the lens, and glaucoma or damage to the optic nerve in the eye.

Learn more about Glaucoma
Learn more about Cataracts

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetes causes damage to the retina and the blood vessels in the retina from high blood sugar levels.  The retina is like the film in a camera, the part of the eye that takes the picture that lets your brain know what you are seeing. There are two main types of diabetic retinopathy – nonproliferative and proliferative – with levels of severity within each type.  Nonproliferative or background means no abnormal blood vessels and proliferative means retinopathy with new abnormal blood vessels present. 

With diabetes, the high blood sugar damages the wall of the blood vessels, like poking holes in a garden hose, so that the blood vessels can start leaking blood, fluid and cholesterol into the retina.  After some time, the retina is not able to absorb the oxygen it needs (or the end of the garden hose isn’t getting any water) and produces a hormone to make new blood vessels to feed itself nutrients and oxygen. But these new blood vessels are dangerous and can fill the eye with blood, cause retinal detachments, severe scar tissue and painful glaucoma.  

It is important to see your eye physician for regular appointments, especially if you have diabetes, to diagnose your level of diabetic retinopathy and set up for appropriate treatment if necessary.  The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends at least annual eye exams for all people with diabetes - with the first exam being within 5 years of diagnosis for Type 1 Diabetes, at the time of diagnosis for Type 2 Diabetes, and in the first trimester for pregnant women with Diabetes.

Learn more about Diabetic Retinopathy

What is diabetic macular edema (DME)? 

Diabetic macular edema is a risk of diabetes that can occur with any level of diabetic retinopathy.   DME is one of the most common reasons for vision loss in a diabetic patient.  DME is when the leakage of fluid, blood and cholesterol occurs in the macula and significantly close to the fovea or the 20/20 center of your retina.  The Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study (ETDRS) set the guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of diabetic macular edema.

How is Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema treated?

If your level of retinopathy or macular edema needs treatment, your eye physician can discuss the appropriate treatment for you.  Treatment modalities include laser retina surgery, injections of medications into the eye and retina surgery if you need it.  Treatments are effective and can restore your sight depending on your level of retinopathy.  

Maintaining a healthy diet, taking your medications, exercise and not smoking also help significantly in preventing and treatment diabetic eye disease.

Where can I learn more?

Diabetes Information Articles (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) 
Diabetic retinopathy ( with wonderful videos and information 
Diabetes Eye Check
Diabetic Eye Disease (eMedicineHealth) 

Contact Us

Everhart Eye Associates
204 Virginia Street
Ashland, Virginia 23005
Ph. 804.752.7508 | Fx. 804.798.6876

Everhart Eye Associates welcomes new patients. We serve individuals from across Virginia. For an appointment, contact us at (804) 752-7508.

Hours of Operation:
Monday - Thursday: 8:30am - 4:30pm
Friday: 8:30am - 12:00pm