Diabetes continues to affect more and more Americans each year — current estimates are that more than 25 million people currently have diabetes, with an estimated 79 million adults having pre-diabetes. Although most people know the serious negative effects that diabetes can have on general health, many people remain unaware that diabetes can also cause very serious eye disease — and that diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working-age Americans.
Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye problems that affects those with diabetes. The most common diabetic eye disease, diabetic retinopathy, currently affects more than 7.6 million people age 40 and older. This represents an 89% increase in cases of diabetic retinopathy from 10 years ago and, even more alarming, the rate is projected to climb to 11 million by 2030. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the blood vessels inside the retina become damaged from the high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes. A potentially blinding condition, diabetic retinopathy is by far the most common sight-threatening condition among people with diabetes and is the leading cause of blindness in adults aged 20 to 74 years.
November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month — a month designated by Prevent Blindness America to raise awareness of the link between diabetes and eye disease. With the goal of helping to combat the growing threat of diabetic eye disease and raising awareness of the importance of regular eye exams, Prevent Blindness America is spreading the word across the country through a national public education campaign — and local ophthalmologist Dr. Kenneth Farr of Palmetto Eye Specialists is helping to deliver this important message to people throughout South Carolina who may be at risk.
“Diabetic eye disease is a major health concern for so many adults throughout our region, both for those who have already been diagnosed with diabetes as well as for the many people out there who have yet to be diagnosed,” says Dr. Farr, the medical director of Palmetto Eye Specialists, the largest ophthalmology practice in the Lowcountry which just opened a new state-of-the-art location at his new 20,000 square foot SunGate Medical Center in Bluffton/Okatie. “It’s critical that people with diabetes get annual dilated eye exams and take important steps to help to prevent vision loss associated with the disease,” notes Dr. Farr.
Annual dilated eye exams allow ophthalmologists to monitor the eye, including the retina, for signs of disease. According to the National Institutes of Health, ninety percent of diabetes-related blindness is preventable through early detection, timely treatment and appropriate follow-up care.
“Diabetic retinopathy often has no symptoms until vision loss occurs,” stresses Dr. Farr. “Therefore, it’s so important for people to recognize the risk of serious eye disease associated with diabetes, and to take preventive steps to both diagnose, and treat, diabetic eye disease as well as take active steps to manage diabetes to reduce the risk of eye disease and potential loss of vision.”
Palmetto Eye Specialists was co-founded by Dr. Kenneth Farr, who has grown the practice to include locations in Hilton Head Island, Ridgeland, Lady’s Island, and a new Sun City area location in Bluffton/Okatie at his new SunGate Medical Center. Palmetto Eye Specialists is committed to giving individualized, thorough medical and surgical eye care using the most advanced technology available. With three ophthalmologists and four optometrists at four locations, Palmetto Eye Specialists leads the way with new medical and surgical procedures, and can diagnose and treat a wide range of diseases and conditions.
For more information about Dr. Farr and Palmetto Eye Specialists, visit www.palmettoeye.com. For additional information about diabetic eye disease and the Prevent Blindness America campaign and programs, visit www.preventblindness.org/diabetes.