Over 29 million Americans have diabetes. More troubling? Over 86 million have pre-diabetes.
Diabetes, a condition where the body doesn’t process sugar well, causing it to build up in the blood, can have dangerous complications including loss of vision, kidney disease and foot problems. The American Diabetes Association says the disease is the seventh leading cause of death in the country.
“Diabetes is an epidemic in the United States and it’s only getting worse,” says Dr. Jerome Sherman, Distinguished Teaching Professor at SUNY College of Optometry and in private practice at the New York Eye Institute and Laser Center. “If you’re young, born in this millennium, you have a one in three chance of developing diabetes.”
“Diabetes is like a time bomb with a long fuse.”
Many people don’t even know they’re at risk. Symptoms such as excessive thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger and fatigue, often go undetected.
“If you catch it early, it’s relatively easy to take care of,” says Dr. Daniel Einhorn, Medical Director, Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute and Clinical Professor of Medicine, UCSD. “If you don’t catch it early and you develop diabetes and its complications, then it very hard to turn back the clock.”

Detection is key

Early detection of this serious disease is essential.
“Diabetes is like a time bomb with a long fuse,” says cataract surgeon Dr. Robert Osher, professor of ophthalmology at University of Cincinnati and Medical Director Emeritus of Cincinnati Eye Institute. “But once the diagnosis has been established, our colleagues that manage diabetes can intervene and the ocular damage may be averted."
Patients need to know their risk factors including family history— obesity, especially in the abdomen, being over age 35, and having high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
Knowing blood sugar levels is important too. One blood test, A1C, measures an average blood sugar over a three-month period. Still getting a blood test to check for diabetes isn’t happening as much as it should. Only 12 percent of Americans get an annual physical and blood draw.

New diagnostic tools

Doctors are encouraged by new diabetes screening technology, hoping a non-invasive eye test will make diagnosis easier for patients. “More people get eye evaluations than get blood tests,” says Dr. Einhorn. “So people getting eye evaluations offer a whole new window into detecting pre diabetes.”
The new test, called ClearPath DS-120, uses blue LED technology to detect high blood sugar levels in the florescence of the eyes. “This technology allows us in eight seconds to detect a biomarker for diabetes,” says Sherman.