Dear Abby: I am an ophthalmologist who specializes in the treatment of diseases of the retina — which is the "seeing tissue" of the eye. You cannot imagine how frustrating, disheartening and sad it is to see patients on a daily basis who have vision loss from the effects of their diabetes. In many instances, I am the person who must inform them that they may not get their vision back and that eventually they will become legally blind.

The reason I am frustrated is because I know that if these patients had only come in earlier, or exercised better control of their blood sugar (glucose) levels, blood pressure and cholesterol, most of their visual loss could have been avoided.

Please, Abby, remind your readers with diabetes that by maintaining control of their blood sugar they can reduce visual loss. Every patient over the age of 30 who is diabetic should have an eye exam as soon as he or she is diagnosed and a yearly exam thereafter. Diabetic eye disease does not cause pain, and it must be treated early, while vision is still good, to avoid serious loss of sight. With proper care and attention, blindness — one of the most devastating complications of diabetes — can be prevented. — David S. Boyer, M.D., Director, American Diabetes Association of L.A.

Dear Dr. Boyer: Thank you for an important letter. I was shocked to learn that an estimated 16 million people in the United States have diabetes, and one-third of them do not know they have it. While diabetes affects people of all ages and ethnicities, diabetes is more prevalent in minority communities — especially Hispanics, African Americans and American Indians.

However, regardless of ethnicity — if there is a history of diabetes in the family, an annual physical examination and an eye examination by a medical doctor are a must. The sight you save, and the quality of life you improve, could be your own.

Dear Abby: The letters from "Furious in Adrian, Mich.," the 14-year-old whose ex-boyfriend wrongly claimed to have had sex with her, and "No Big Deal in New Jersey," reminded me of an episode on the sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter."

A pretty girl in class was rumored to be promiscuous. All the guys bragged about sleeping with her at one time or another. Her solution: She announced that she was pregnant and was going to publicly reveal the identity of the father of her baby in class the next day. By morning, not one male would admit to ever having slept with her, with one exception. The character Horshack — the class nerd — proclaimed that he was the father and would marry her if she would have him. He probably couldn't even spell S-E-X, let alone get a date with a girl. But he was determined to do "the honorable thing."

If "Furious" would announce that she was pregnant and that she was bringing a paternity suit against her ex-boyfriend and his parents, I think he would stop the lying. — Tammy in Florida

Dear Tammy: But what if he didn't? Some misguided young men are under the impression that fathering a child makes them appear manly — although nothing could be further from the truth. "Furious" has enough problems already without spreading a false rumor that could backfire.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips. Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $10 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby — Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.) © Universal Press Syndicate