Diabetes is a disease on the rise, affecting men, women, and children.
It may be surprising to some that in many cases eye doctors are the ones first detecting the disease.
Karen Fallo typically sees her eye doctor once a year for a routine exam.
This year that appointment proved to be especially valuable.
Fallo said, "I was having a little bit of a difficult time seeing."
The difficulty was due to diabetes.
Dr. Donald Higgins, Optometrist says, "Very often they will come in thinking, ‘Gee doc, my eyes, and my vision's blurry. I need a change of contacts or glasses,’ and they will leave with a referral to their internist."
Diabetes is something Dr. Higgins has a trained eye for spotting.
He commented, "We take advantage of the eye exam. Especially when we're looking inside the eye at the retina. We're going to be looking for any condition that may be associated with diabetes."
Fallo says, "In the early stages of diabetes like this I don not think you recognize it as a patient, that you have it."
The eyes are very vascular and diabetes develops with many vascular complications.
In the eye, indicators are tiny hemorrhages or aneurysms.
Doctor Higgins says eye doctors have a particular advantage detecting problems early because they can peer inside the body.
Advances in technology also help optometrists give a more precise diagnosis.
Dr. Higgins said, "I will pick up a patient who was unaware of their condition 25, sometimes 30, 40 times a year."
In Karen's case, she is just thankful she kept her annual appointment.
She said, "It is a very precious commodity to have your eyesight and I think it gives you an awareness knowing that you have to take care of your body."
According to the CDC from 1980 through 2004, the number of Americans with diabetes more than doubled from 5.8 million to 14.7 million.