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November is Diabetes Awareness and Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month

As many as 26 million people in the U.S. have diabetes (8.3% of the population), and the cost of treating diabetes may be as high as $245 billion annually! November is the designated awareness month for both diabetes and diabetic eye disease, one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S. for working age adults.

It is estimated that 20%-40% of those diagnosed with diabetes already have diabetic eye disease. One of the major reasons for this is that nearly 40% of the individuals newly diagnosed with diabetes were unaware, often for years, that they were diabetic. Evidence of diabetes may often be first detected through a routine eye examination before an individual is aware of any other symptoms.

Diabetic eye disease currently accounts for 12% of the newly diagnosed cases of blindness each year in the U.S, among working aged adults, and this vision loss may be preventable!

Dr. Cynthia Heard, Associate Professor at Southern College of Optometry, reported in a recent presentation to the Hadley School for the Blind ( that people aren’t often aware how much they can control the outcome of vision and eye health related to diabetes through preventative care. Research demonstrated that individuals who maintained their blood glucose as close to normal as possible decreased their chances of vision loss by as much as 76%. In addition, fluctuations in blood glucose levels also may affect how well a person sees from day to day.

Professionals such as vision rehabilitation therapists (VRT) may provide training with adapted daily living skills for individuals experiencing vision loss from diabetes. This training may include measuring insulin, reading a glucose meter, organizing medications, and many other skills. VRT services are available from your state’s rehabilitation department, or local non-profit agencies, often at no out-of-pocket cost.

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