If you have diabetes, chances are that you’ve been warned to take care of your eyes. Diabetes can cause a whole range of serious eye problems, and can even lead to loss of vision. While diabetes eye care can be challenging, it doesn’t need to be complicated. Read on to learn the practical steps you can take to protect yourself from diabetic eye disease.
Understand Diabetic Retinopathy
For people with diabetes, the most common threat to the eyes is a disease called diabetic retinopathy. During its first stage, known as non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, the very thin blood vessels in the eye begin to leak into the retina and cause it to swell. This can also cause swelling in the macula, which often leads to loss of vision.
The more advanced stage of diabetic eye disease is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy. This occurs when the retina begins to grow tiny, fragile new blood vessels through a process called neovascularization. These blood vessels frequently bleed into the retina even further, causing dark spots or even complete loss of vision. If the blood vessels begin to scar over, they can pull the retina away from the eye and compromise sight even further. Some research even suggests that there may be a link between diabetes and glaucoma.
See Your Optometrist
The most important step toward good diabetes eye care is to schedule a minimum of one eye appointment each year. This will allow your eye doctor to monitor the health of your eyes, spotting and treating any preliminary problems before they become serious issues. Expect a dilation at each appointment. This procedure helps your optometrist examine the blood vessels in your eye and check for the early signs of diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts. There is no reason to be afraid of heading to the optometrist, especially since most new equipment is designed to emphasize convenience and comfort.
Monitor Your Blood Pressure
Keeping track of your blood pressure and blood sugar levels is crucial to maintaining general health, but it can also slow the progression of retinopathy. Ask your doctor to perform an A1c blood test and a full blood pressure exam several times a year. Your blood sugar levels should stay under 7 percent, and your blood pressure should remain less than 140/90.
Your eyes are only as healthy as the rest of your body. You’ve heard the advice to “eat right and exercise” a hundred times for a good reason: it is the best way to control your diabetes and lengthen your life.
Fill your plate with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. Be sure to clear any sudden dietary changes with your doctor, especially if you take insulin to manage your diabetes. Your doctor can also recommend diabetes-specific workouts to help you get moving, stay fit, and naturally lower your blood pressure.
Managing the other things that you put into your body can also have a huge impact on your diabetes. If you smoke or drink heavily, think of quitting as part of your diabetes eye care program. These habits can constrict your blood vessels, causing your blood pressure to skyrocket.
Contact Your Doctor
If you notice any changes in your quality of vision, no matter how minimal, call your eye doctor right away. You could be noticing the early signs of diabetic retinopathy or another serious ocular condition. Here are some of the most common problems to watch out for:
- Black spots or persistent “floaters”
- Blurry vision
- Difficulty seeing colors
- Inability to focus properly
- Flashes of light
- Loss of sight in one or both eyes
Get help right away if you notice any of these symptoms. Don’t delay. Early action can help to preserve your sight and keep your eyes healthy for years to come. Call Dr. Barry Leonard’s office at 818-891-6711 to schedule an appointment. Our friendly staff will guide you through the basics of diabetes eye care, provide a full examination, and answer any questions you may have.