November is Diabetes Eye Disease Month.  Before discussing how diabetes effects the eyes, I want to begin with the disease itself. Approximately 16 million Americans have diabetes. Classified as a “chronic disease epidemic” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of diabetes has increased dramatically over the past forty years.

The term “diabetes mellitus” refers to a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood glucose, commonly called blood sugar. Glucose is vital to your health because it is the main source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissue. Glucose comes from two major sources: the food you eat and your liver. During digestion, sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream. Normally, sugar then enters cells with the help of insulin. If you have diabetes, no matter what type, it means you have too much glucose in your blood, although the reasons may differ. Too much glucose can lead to serious health problems.

There are different classifications of diabetes. 2 types are potentially reversible. Prediabetes is defined by having blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes and gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy. Chronic diabetes conditions include type 1 diabetes which is caused when your immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and type 2 diabetes which is caused when your cells become resistant to the action of insulin and sugar builds up in your bloodstream.

Diabetes is a chronic, complex and destructive disease that can cause a wide range of problems including heart disease, kidney failure, amputations and blindness. Both types of chronic diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2 are serious diseases, and can lead to the same kind of complications. But people with diabetes can take several steps to stay well. Most important are eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining close control of blood sugar levels, and learning as much as possible about living with diabetes. By taking care of yourself through diet, exercise and special medications, diabetes can be controlled.

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