Soul singer Gladys Knight doesn’t have diabetes, but the disease is as close to her heart as the memories of her mother, Elizabeth Knight, who died of complications from the disease in 1997. A five-time Grammy award winner, Knight is as busy as ever gracing the entertainment world with her exceptional voice. Yet she never misses an opportunity to voice the message of early detection and treatment of diabetes.
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Like nearly 5.5 million other adults in the U.S., Elizabeth had diabetic retinopathy, a sight-threatening complication of diabetes that can cause blindness. “I remember my mother being at one of my performances. She came backstage and shed a tear saying, ‘Gladys, I can’t see you anymore on stage, baby’,” said Knight. Elizabeth eventually became legally blind in both eyes due to the disease, as do approximately 25,000 Americans every year.
According to Prevent Blindness Ohio, the longer one has diabetes, the greater the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.
“My mom went to the eye doctor every year and was on top of her health as far as nutrition and exercise,” said Knight. Prevent Blindness Ohio recommends an annual dilated eye exam for people with diabetes. While diabetic retinopathy is not always avoidable, management of the disease and treatment options can help reduce the risk of sight loss. Like many others with diabetic
retinopathy, Elizabeth had laser treatment called photocoagulation, a procedure that helps control the growth of leaking blood vessels in the retina.