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FOR RELEASE: November 7, 2002
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
405/271-5601

Diabetic Eye Disease is the Focus of National Diabetes Awareness Month

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has joined with the National Eye Institute to educate the public about diabetic eye disease during November, which is National Diabetes Awareness Month.

"The goal of the awareness campaign is to reach the 220,000 adult Oklahomans who have diabetes with the important message that a yearly dilated eye examination can save their vision," said State Commissioner of Health Dr. Leslie Beitsch.

In Oklahoma, there are an estimated 66,302 adults with diabetic retinopathy.

People with diabetes are 25 times more at risk for blindness than the general population. Diabetic retinopathy, which is the most common form of diabetic eye disease, affects more than 5.3 million adults nationally, or 2.5 percent of this population. Diabetic retinopathy alone accounts for at least 12 percent of new cases of blindness each year in the United States with 40,000 Americans going blind from this condition.

In diabetic retinopathy, abnormal blood vessels grow in the retina, the light-sensing tissue that lines the back of the eye. These vessels can bleed into the tissue, and in advanced stages, cause the retina to detach from the rest of the eye. In addition, the central part of the retina, which is crucial to vision, may swell. The result of these changes may be vision loss or blindness.

"The single, most important thing that a person with diabetes can do to prevent blindness is to have a dilated eye exam at least once a year. Early detection, routine monitoring and appropriate timing of laser surgery are essential to effective treatment of the disease," Beitsch said.

If Americans at risk for developing diabetic eye disease received the recommended annual eye exam and proper follow-up, savings could exceed $470 million.

For more information about diabetic retinopathy and about National Diabetes Month, contact your health care provider; the OSDH Diabetes Control and Prevention Program at 888-669-5934; your county health department; or the American Diabetes Association (ADA), Tulsa Regional ADA Office at 1-800-259-6552; Oklahoma City Regional ADA Office at 1-800-259-6551; or the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation at 1-800-JDF-CURE.

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