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The Growing Concern of Diabetic Eye Disease: What Can Be Done to Protect Your Vision?


PHILADELPHIA--()--Diabetes kills more Americans each year than AIDS and breast cancer combined.1 It can cause serious problems throughout the body, but eye health can Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 13.10.24become critically compromised. November is both American Diabetes Month and Diabetic Eye Disease Month, bringing even more attention to this disease.

In 2015, 30.3 million Americans, or 9.4 percent of the population, were living with diabetes, with about 1.5 million more being diagnosed every year.2 The longer someone has diabetes increases their chances of developing diabetic retinopathy, or damage to the blood vessels in the retina. Between 40-45 percent of people diagnosed with diabetes have some degree of diabetic retinopathy.3

While being overweight and a sedentary lifestyle are certainly linked to diabetes, social and environmental factors such as poverty, stress, lack of safe housing, and access to a healthy diet can also compromise a person’s health and ultimately contribute to the development of Type 2 diabetes.4 Addressing these social determinants of health has become a top priority for Medicaid programs.5

“We encourage our members with diabetes to have regular eye exams to rule out complications,” said Dr. Andrea Gelzer, MD, MS, FACP, senior vice president of medical affairs at AmeriHealth Caritas, a national leader in Medicaid managed care and other health care solutions for those most in need. “We educate our members so they understand that living a healthy lifestyle, controlling their blood sugar and having regular eye exams can help save their vision.”

Simple steps can help mitigate the effects of diabetes and may potentially delay complications from diabetic eye disease, including controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure, monitoring your cholesterol, seeing your doctor regularly, and having a dilated eye exam at least once per year—or more if recommended by your eye care professional.

About AmeriHealth Caritas

AmeriHealth Caritas is part of the Independence Health Group in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. AmeriHealth Caritas is one of the nation’s leaders in health care solutions for those most in need. Operating in 15 states and the District of Columbia, AmeriHealth Caritas serves approximately 5.3 million Medicaid, Medicare and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) members through its integrated managed care products, pharmaceutical benefit management and specialty pharmacy services, behavioral health services, and other administrative services. Headquartered in Philadelphia, AmeriHealth Caritas is a mission-driven organization with more than 35 years of experience serving low-income and chronically ill populations. For more information, visit

1 American Diabetes Association. Accessed October 22, 2018.
2 Ibid.
3 National Eye Institute. “Diabetic Eye Disease FAQ.” Accessed October 22, 2018.
4 The Permanente Journal. “Understanding the Social Factors That Contribute to Diabetes: A Means to Informing Health Care and Social Policies for the Chronically Ill.” Accessed October 29, 2018.
5 AHIP. “Beyond the Boundaries of Health Care: Addressing Social Issues.” Accessed October 30, 2018.