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Diabetes is leading cause of new blindness in adults

November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, and a top eye specialist is sharing the importance of regular dilated eye examinations.

AUSTIN, Texas — According to the 2022 National Diabetes Statistics Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 11% of the U.S. population has diabetes.

With November recognized as Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, a top eye specialist is sharing the importance of regular dilated eye examinations. 

Diabetes is the leading cause of new blindness among adults from 18 to 64, according to a Prevent Blindness news release.

Dr. Daniel Laroche, a top New York City eye specialist, says many people with diabetes may not know about the damaging effects the disease can have on vision. That's why regular dilated eye examinations are essential to detect diabetic retinopathy early and provide vision-saving treatments when ready.

"A lot of times, you can go to an optical shop for eyeglasses where they'll just check your prescription and check for the eyeglasses. They may not necessarily do a more in-depth examination, a dilated examination, where we put drops in your eyes and deluge the pupils to look at the larger view of the lens inside the eye, the retina, the optic nerve to look for pathology like diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, other types of retinopathy," Laroche said.

Laroche is a glaucoma specialist who wants people to be aware that glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and retinopathy can begin to surface between the ages of 40 and 70. But there are ways to prevent diabetes.

One of those being having a healthy diet with salads, vegetables and fruits, and reducing bread and rice intake. Exercising 30 minutes a day and meditating for 15 to 30 minutes a day are also recommended.

"We live in a very stressful society, people working one or two jobs. A lot of stress is going on. You have to make some time 15 to 20 minutes a day. That reduces the stress hormones in your body, that makes you eat less, makes you more relaxed, can lower your blood pressure by 20% and lower eye pressure by 20% to help ensure you don't have sleep apnea," Laroche said. 

Other tips: drink green tea, and reduce sleep apnea and snoring by sleeping on the side and not directly on your back. Controlling weight helps to reduce diabetes and retinopathy. 

"Teas are very healthy. They have a lot of antioxidants that help to strengthen your body, strengthen your immune system," Laroche said. 

Experts recommend any time someone has blurred vision or anything unusual occurs, take it seriously. Don't sit on it. Once over the age of 40, once a year checkups are important to check on eye pressure and ensure the optic nerve is healthy. 

"By protecting the eyes, people will reduce the chance of blindness and vision loss while also staying on top of any developing eye diseases, such as glaucoma and cataracts," Laroche said. 

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