SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Did you know that an estimated 17.9 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes and another 57 million people are at risk of getting the disease?
What many of these individuals may not know is that all people with diabetes – both type 1 and type 2 – are at risk for getting diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of vision loss among adults in the United States. In fact, people with diabetes are 25 times more likely to lose their vision than those without the disease.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month and during this month-long health observance EyeCare America is asking Americans with diabetes to know the ABCs of diabetes and eye health.
A – Alert your Eye M.D. if you have been diagnosed with diabetes;
B – Be sure to have your eyes examined regularly; and
C – Call 1-800-272-EYES (3937), if you are 65 or older and without an ophthalmologist, to see if you qualify for a no-cost dilated eye exam through EyeCare America’s Diabetes EyeCare Program.
By following these simple steps EyeCare America hopes to help protect seniors from preventable vision loss caused by diabetes.
“Diabetes causes up to 24,000 new cases of vision loss each year,” said C. Pat Wilkinson, MD, ophthalmologist and chairman of EyeCare America’s Diabetes EyeCare Program. “What people don’t know is that early detection, timely treatment and appropriate follow-up care can reduce their risk of blindness by 95 percent even for people with established and significant diabetic retinopathy.”
Diabetic retinopathy is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy usually has no warning signs.
Over time, however, the vision blurs and everyday tasks become more difficult. Vision loss cannot usually be regained.
EyeCare America’s Diabetes EyeCare Program is designed for people who:
• Are age 65 and older
• Are U.S. citizens or legal residents
• Have not seen an ophthalmologist in three or more years
• Do not have insurance through an HMO or the VA
People eligible for a referral through the program receive a comprehensive, medical eye exam and up to one year of care at no out-of-pocket cost for any disease diagnosed during the initial exam. Volunteer ophthalmologists accept Medicare and/or other insurance reimbursement as payment in full. Individuals without insurance are seen at no charge.
For a Diabetes EyeCare Program referral, those interested may call 1-800-272-EYES (3937) toll-free, 24 hours a day, every day, year round.
To learn more about diabetic retinopathy, its risk factors and treatment options; view informative videos; and to learn how your vision would be affected by diabetic retinopathy, visit www.eyecareamerica.org.
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