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The Voice of the Black Community


Holiday season ideal time to talk health
Itís time for families to set sights on healthy vision
Published Tuesday, December 3, 2013
by Michaela L. Duckett

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This holiday season, the National Eye Institute is encouraging families to use their time together to discuss important health issues.

As we gather the dinner table with our loved ones this holiday season to reminisce and discuss everything from sports to our plans for the New Year, experts at the National Eye Institute are encouraging more families to discuss more serious matters like health.

For most African-Americans, that discussion should include a talk about the complications of diabetes, which affects more than 26 million people. NEI is asking anyone with diabetes or that has a family member with the disease to have a talk about diabetic eye disease.

According to NEI, diabetic eye disease affects nearly 30 percent of Americans with diabetes age 40 and older. That equates to more than 7 million people, many of which are African American. That number is expected to reach more than 11 million by the year 2030.

“The longer a person has diabetes, the greater is his or her risk of developing diabetic eye disease,” said NEI Director Paul A. Sieving M.D., Ph.D. in a statement. “If you have diabetes, be sure to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Don’t wait until you notice an eye problem to have an exam, because vision that is lost cannot be restored.”

Diabetic eye disease includes cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, which is the most common form of the disease. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in adults 20-74 years of age. More than 800,000 African Americans have diabetic retinopathy, and this number is projected to reach 1.2 million by 2030. While everyone who has diabetes can get diabetic eye disease, African Americans are at higher risk of losing vision or going blind from it.

Diabetic eye disease often has no early warning signs, but it can be detected early and treated before vision loss occurs.

“If fact, with early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up care, people with diabetes can reduce their risk of severe vision loss by 95 percent,” said Dr. Suber Huang, chair of the Diabetic Eye Disease Subcommittee for NEI’s National Eye Health Program.

Research has also shown that when people with diabetes have good control of their blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, they can help delay getting diabetic eye disease, or slow its progress. In addition to having annual comprehensive dilated eye exams, NEI advises people with diabetes to do the following to keep their health on TRACK:

T - Take your medication

R – Reach and maintain a healthy weight

A – Add physical activity to your daily routine

C – Control your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol

K – Kick the smoking habit.

For more information on diabetic eye disease and tips on finding an eye care professional and financial assistance for eye for eye care, visit nei.nih.gov/diabetes or call the NEI at (301) 496-5248.


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