The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 13 percent of African Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes can cause diabetic eye disease, otherwise known as diabetic retinopathy, when diabetes damages blood vessels in the retina. It affects African Americans more than whites, and the number is expected to rise dramatically in the next 15 years.
The National Eye Institute (NEI) estimates that more than 800,000 African Americans have diabetic retinopathy. Although retinopathy can affect anyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, African Americans have a higher risk of developing the eye disease. Why?
The risk for diabetic retinopathy increases the longer one has diabetes. Early detection, treatment, and ongoing care is critical to prevent blindness. One of the possible reasons for the increased risk among African Americans could be lack of access to proper health care that could prevent complications from diabetes, including retinopathy.
In addition to regular eye exams, the National Eye Institute recommends the following steps be taken by people with diabetes in order to prevent diabetic retinopathy:
- Stop smoking
- Keep your weight down
- Take your meds
- Control blood pressure and cholesterol levels
For more details about diabetic retinopathy, visit https://nei.nih.gov/health/diabetic/retinopathy