brought to you by the National Eye Institute (Bethesda):

There are many South Africans who have either Type I (juvenile onset) or Type II (adult onset) diabetes. All are at risk of developing sight-threatening eye diseases that are common complications of diabetes. Although early detection and timely treatment can substantially reduce the risk of severe visual loss or blindness from diabetic eye disease, many people at risk are not having their eyes examined regularly to detect these problems before they impair vision. Increased awareness of the sight-saving benefits of annual eye examinations through dilated pupils is essential to reduce the significant social and personal costs of diabetic eye disease.

What is Diabetic Eye Disease?

Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of sight-threatening eye problems that people with diabetes may develop as a complication of the disease. They include:

  • Diabetic retinopathy. This disease damages blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that translates light into electrical impulses that the brain interprets as vision.
  • Cataract. A cataract is an opacity of the eye’s crystalline lens that results in blurring of normal vision. People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop a cataract as someone who does not have the disease. In addition, cataracts tend to develop at an earlier age in people with diabetes, around late middle age.
  • Glaucoma. This disease occurs when increased fluid pressure in the eye leads to progressive optic nerve damage. People with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to develop glaucoma as other adults.

Cataract and glaucoma also affect many people who do not have diabetes.

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