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Early detection key to saving sight of diabetes sufferers

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S, with more than 30 million adults having the disease, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. November is American Diabetes Month and Dr. Ann Warn of Dean McGee Eye Institute in Tomlinson Medical Center offered some insight on how diabetics should take care of their eyes.

"With diabetes, about 40-45 percent of diabetics will get retinopathy at some point," Warn said. "Retinopathy is the significant thing we look for in people with diabetes. It can be leaky blood vessels, swelling of the retina, new blood vessels, bleeding, traction that causes retinal detachment. There's a whole range of things that can happen with diabetes."

The problem is only about 40 percent of diabetics get their eye exams, and when someone is diabetic for 15-20 years, they find out from their first eye exam they have advanced retinopathy, according to Warn.

"If we catch it early, there's all sorts of things we can do for it," Warn said. "But catching it late in the game can be a problem. If you're diabetic, you have a higher risk of glaucoma and cataracts. The risk factors all revolve around how much retinopathy is there already.

If it's a diabetic who does not have the retinopathy, the risk is pretty small. But if a patient has a lot of retinopathy and they have borderline macular edema, their risk of worsening is there."

The Lawton Constitution

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