As more Iowans are categorized as obese, just as many are being diagnosed with diabetes. While some of us associate diabetes with losing a foot, another big risk is blindness.
Dr. Wendy Muller, an optometrist in Urbandale, says diabetics need to take particular care of their vision and there are warning signs of a possible problem.
“One of the most common symptoms of diabetes is fluctuating or blurry vision,” Dr. Muller says.
“That’s because of the increase of glucose in the crystaline lens inside the eye. The most serious problem associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy, where the tiny fragile blood vessels in the back of the eye can leak and cause permanent vision loss if left untreated.”
A state health department report finds the number of diagnosed diabetics has almost doubled in Iowa since 1991, rising from 3.8-percent of the state’s population in 1991 to 7.5-percent in 2010. Muller says an annual eye exam could help to identify trouble early.
“Most people don’t know how important an eye exam is and a lot of conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can be seen by just having a regular eye exam,” Muller says. “Some studies show that only 60% of people with diabetes receive regular eye exams.”
Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among adults between the ages of 20 and 74, while diabetic retinopathy causes up to 24,000 new cases of blindness in the U.S. each year.
One new type of technology being used is called Optomap, which involving taking a detailed picture with a 200-degree view of the back of the eye. Muller says, “The nice thing about Optomap is we have a picture to compare how the retina looks at any time and date and then compare in the future, so it’s easy to see if there are fragile blood vessels, new blood vessel growth and possibly any swelling in the center of the retina.”
While 26-million Americans are now diagnosed as diabetic, Muller says the alarming stat is that 79-million are pre-diabetic or are at significant risk.