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Eye Care: An Important Part of Taking Care of Diabetes

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While thousands of American adults are in danger of losing their vision as
a result of complications from diabetes, American Indians and Alaska
Natives are at an even higher risk.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney
Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health, American Indians are
2.6 times as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes compared with other
ethnicities of similar age. About 15 percent of American Indians and Alaska
Natives have diabetes. In some communities, the prevalence is as high as 40
to 70 percent in some age groups.

All people with diabetes both Type I and Type 2, are at risk for vision
loss from diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when diabetes
damages the tiny blood vessels inside the retina, the light-sensitive
tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy retina is necessary for good
vision. Research has shown that maintaining good control of blood sugar,
blood pressure and blood cholesterol is essential in slowing the
development and progression of diabetic retinopathy.

To reduce the risk of vision loss, the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the
National Institutes of Health encourages people with diabetes to have a
dilated eye exam at least once a year and recommends the following
behaviors to help people keep their health on TRACK:

Take your medications.

Reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Add physical activity to your daily routine.

Control your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol.

Kick the smoking habit.

If you have diabetes, be sure to have a dilated eye exam at least once a
year since diabetic retinopathy often has no early warning signs. You can
be an inspiration to everyone you know who has diabetes or is at risk for
developing diabetes by taking care of your diabetes and including a yearly
dilated eye exam in your diabetes management strategy.

Your vision is important gift. It allows you to enjoy your world and the
people around you. Saving your eyesight is one more thing you can do to
help pass your culture and traditions on to the next generation.

To learn more about diabetic retinopathy and what you can do to protect
your vision, visit the NEIs Web site at www.nei.nih.gov/diabetes/or call
(877) 569-8474 for a free brochure. The NEI conducts and supports research
that leads to sight-saving treatment and plays a key role in reducing
visual impairment. The NEI is part of the National Institutes of Health, an
agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

DIABETES FACTS:

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and digestive and Kidney
Diseases (NIDDK), about 15 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives
who receive health care from the Indian Health Service have been diagnosed
with Type 2 or adult onset diabetes.

American Indians and Alaska Natives are 2.6 times as likely to have
diagnosed diabetes as other populations of a similar age. In some
communities it's as high as 21 - 50 percent in individuals aged 30 - 64.

Type 2 diabetes is becoming more frequent in Indian youth.

Diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of new blindness in the United
States for people age 20 to 74.

People with diabetes have a 25 times greater likelihood of becoming blind
than do those without diabetes

Genetics contributes to the high rates of diabetes among American Indians
and Alaska Natives