Diabetes steals the sight of 12,000 to 24,000 people each year and is responsible for 8 percent of blindness in the United States, making it the leading cause of new blindness in people ages 20 to 74, according to the American Diabetes Association.
One problem even reflects in its name the close relationship between diabetes and the eyes: diabetic retinopathy, a catchall term that refers to diabetes-related damage to the retina.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common complication of type 2 diabetes, currently affecting more than 4.1 million Americans age 40 and older. Up to 21 percent of people with type 2 diabetes already have diabetic retinopa thy by the time they're diagnosed with diabetes. Almost 100 percent of people with type 1 and more than 70 percent with type 2 diabetes eventually develop diabetic retinopathy, in most cases without vision loss, accord- ing to a Johns Hopkins University special report. Nearly 900,000 Americans currently have diabetic retinopathy severe enough to cause vision loss.
Mexican Americans are almost twice as likely to develop diabetic retinopathy, and non-Hispanic blacks are almost 50 percent as likely to develop this condition as non-Hispanic whites.
Researchers say annual screening for diabetic retinopathy and managing diabetes risk factors will help reduce the possibility of blindness caused by the disease. The following are some of the best sight-saving strategies.
(Get more tips and advice on preventing and treating diabetes in Outsmart Diabetes 1-2-3: A 3-Step Plan to Balance Blood Sugar, Lose Weight, and Reverse Diabetes Complications)