This National Diabetes Month, remember to keep an eye on your eyes

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In recognition of National Diabetes Month, the WVU Eye Institute is reminding all patients with diabetes that having regular eye exams is as important as watching their diet and keeping track of their blood sugar.

In the United States, diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of vision loss among working-age adults. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common form of this disease and affects about 28.5 percent of Americans with diabetes age 40 and older. That’s more than 7 million people, and the number is expected to reach more than 11 million by the year 2030.  More than one in 10 West Virginia adults have diabetes.  

The condition can creep up quietly. It gradually weakens small blood vessels in and around the retina, the light-sensing layer of tissue at the back of the eye. If the disease progresses, these vessels may rupture and leak blood into the eye; they can also spread and grow on the surface of the retina and cause scarring.

Typically, diabetic retinopathy has no symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage. But the disease can be detected early through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. In this procedure, an eye professional will put drops in your eye to dilate (widen) the pupil, which allows a closer look at the retina.

“Vision loss and blindness from diabetic retinopathy is preventable in up to 95 percent of cases with early diagnosis and treatment. If we can find it, we can successfully treat most people,” Ronald Gross, M.D., director of the WVU Eye Institute and chair of the WVU Department of Ophthalmology, said. “The key is to get checked. If no one looks for diabetic retinopathy, it will not be discovered.”

There are several effective treatment options, including laser surgery and injections of drugs that block the actions of a protein that can cause abnormal blood vessels to grow and leak fluid.  The medical and surgical retina service at the WVU Eye Institute offers the latest in diagnostic and treatment care. The Institute’s nationally recognized doctors specialize in retinal detachments, diabetic eye disease, macular diseases, vitreous surgery and much more.

November is National Diabetes Month. If you have diabetes, it’s a good time to remember these health tips:
  • Get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.
  • Control your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. By controlling your diabetes, you’ll reduce your risk of diabetic eye disease.
  • Talk to your eye care professional about diabetic retinopathy.
A nationally recognized center for vision care, research, education and outreach, the WVU Eye Institute provides the full range of eye care under one roof — from routine exams to subspecialty medical and surgical treatment and laser vision correction – to more than 35,000 West Virginians and patients from surrounding states each year.  

To learn more about the Eye Institute or to make an appointment, call 304-598-4820 or visit http://wvuhealthcare.com/wvuh/Hospitals-Clinics/Eye-Institute/Eye-Institute-Home.   

National Diabetes Month is a national eye health observance established by the National Eye Institute (NEI). During National Diabetes Month, NEI is increasing awareness of the importance of early diagnosis and treatment through outreach efforts aimed at the general public.


For more information:
Amy Johns, Director of Public Affairs, 304-293-7087
st: 11-01-13

Return To News Releases