Diabetes, a medical condition that occurs as a result of high blood sugar levels, can cause eye complications, such as diabetic retinopathy, cataract and glaucoma. In fact, it is the primary cause of blindness in adults aged 20 to 74. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it would be best to see your eye doctor regularly to prevent vision problems and prevent them from getting worse.
Since November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, it’s best to learn more about diabetes in general and how it contributes to vision loss.
How Does Diabetes Contribute to Vision Loss?
Diabetic retinopathy is an eye-related condition in which high blood sugar affects blood vessels in the retina, the part of the eye that converts light into electrical signals and allows us to see. Damaged blood vessels can lead to swelling of the macula, the central part of your retina that allows you to see in detail. Over time, this can cause blurry vision due to restricted blood flow to the retina. New blood vessels grow, albeit abnormally, which can lead to further vision problems.
Diabetic retinopathy affects both eyes and is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. Anyone with Type 1, Type 2 or gestational diabetes can develop this disease. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop it. The following factors can increase your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy:
- You have high blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- You are a regular smoker.
- You are African American, Hispanic or Alaska Native.
What Can You Do to Prevent Vision Loss From Diabetes?
Fortunately, there are ways to protect your eyes when you have diabetes. These include:
- Visiting your eye doctor. One of the best ways you can control your diabetic retinopathy is by visiting your eye doctor regularly. The team will perform a dilated eye exam so they can spot any issues early when they’re still treatable. Remember, early detection and treatment can save you from permanent vision loss.
- Controlling blood sugar. Keep your blood sugar in your target range by eating simple carbohydrates and low-sugar foods and exercising regularly. Take insulin or other medications as prescribed by your primary care physician. If you are a regular smoker, consider quitting smoking.
- Maintaining a healthy diet. Your physician or nutritionist would be the first to tell you to avoid excessive consumption of red meat and instead incorporate vegetables into your diet. If possible, cook at home using fresh ingredients. Try to avoid fried foods, refined carbohydrates, and sugary foods and beverages as well.
If you have diabetes, be sure to visit your optometrist regularly! You can count on the eye care professionals at Opti-Care to detect signs of eye-related conditions, including diabetic retinopathy, and provide a treatment plan. Call us today at (410) 795-8670, or fill out our online contact form to request an appointment. Our Maryland service areas include Marriottsville and Westminster, MD.