Risks of blindness related to diabetes are increasing, and during Diabetes Awareness Month, the Nebraska Optometric Association (NOA), the leading authority in eye and vision healthcare in Nebraska, is encouraging anyone with diabetes or at risk for diabetes to schedule a dilated, comprehensive eye exam with their local Doctor of Optometry.

Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults. More than 30 million Americans are already diagnosed with the disease and it is expected to affect one in 10 people worldwide by 2040, the International Diabetes Federation predicts.

Yet, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA), as prevalent as the condition is, 79% of Americans don’t know diabetic eye diseases have no visible symptoms and more than half do not know comprehensive eye examinations can detect diabetes, according to the most recent American Eye-Q® Survey conducted by the AOA.

“When the eyes are dilated, an eye doctor is able to examine the retina for signs of diabetic eye disease and prescribe a course of treatment to help preserve an individual’s sight,” said Dr. Eric Gengenbach, NOA president.

“Alternatives like vision screenings or online apps only check for refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism and cannot detect diabetes,” Dr. Gengenbach said.

“Many eye problems show no symptoms until they are in an advanced stage, but early detection and treatment can truly save a person’s vision. No online app can do that,” he said.

The study found that only 54 percent of people with diabetes who were surveyed regularly visit their doctor of optometry to understand the toll diabetes is taking on their overall eye health.

“Nearly a quarter million people each year nationally are diagnosed with diabetes as a result of a visit to an eye doctor. A comprehensive eye examination with a doctor of optometry is important not just to maintain eye and vision health but it can also be a first line of diagnosis for many systemic diseases,” Dr. Gengenbach said.

For more information on diabetes and comprehensive eye examinations, click here.

Find a Doctor of Optometry in your area, here.