How to Reduce Your Risk of Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, held every November, highlights the importance of protecting your eyes from the harmful effects of diabetes. Four diabetes-related eye diseases can damage your vision and even cause vision loss in some cases. Fortunately, these steps can help you reduce your risk of developing any of these eye diseases.
Pay Attention to Your Blood Glucose (Sugar) Level
Diabetic eye diseases develop when your blood sugar level is too high. Occasional spikes may only cause temporary blurry vision. If your blood sugar remains high, you may soon face vision problems caused by one of these diabetic eye diseases:
- Diabetic Retinopathy - Leaky or abnormal blood vessels may cause scarring, blurred vision, and blind spots if you have diabetic retinopathy. (The retina sends light impulses to the brain, which turns them into recognizable images.) Diabetes-related vision loss most commonly occurs as a result of diabetic retinopathy, according to The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
- Cataracts - Although anyone can develop cataracts, they're more common if you have diabetes. A cataract clouds the clear lens of the eye, causing blurred and faded vision.
- Glaucoma - Glaucoma occurs when rising pressure inside your eye damages your optic nerve, which transmits light impulses from your retinas to your brain. The eye disease may be responsible for permanent vision loss.
- Macular Edema - Macular edema causes swelling in the part of your retina responsible for central and color vision. If the swelling isn't treated successfully, you may lose some central vision.
Schedule Yearly Eye Examinations
During a comprehensive dilated eye examination, your optometrist can often spot problems in your eyes before you notice any changes in your vision. Early detection and treatment of diabetic eye diseases will help you retain your vision and minimize damage.
Eat a Healthy Diet
A nutritious diet is important whether you want to avoid diabetes or already have the disease. Making a few changes to your diet can lower your blood sugar level. Junk food, sugary or high-carbohydrate snacks and treats, and fatty, fried, or processed foods should be avoided. Whole grains, lean meats, poultry, fish, low-fat dairy products, and plenty of fruits and vegetables are much more nutritious choices.
A registered dietitian can help you create an individualized eating plan tailored to your healthcare needs and lifestyle. Are you considering trying a low-carbohydrate diet? The American Diabetes Association (ADA) reports that some people benefit from low-carb diets, but recommends talking to your doctor and dietitian before making any changes.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Your blood sugar is more likely to be high if you're obese or significantly overweight. Losing even a small amount of weight can improve your blood sugar, according to the ADA. Losing weight can also lower your blood pressure and help you keep your cholesterol under control.
Exercise helps your body use blood sugar more effectively and may lower your levels. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week, in addition to muscle-strengthening activity at least two days per week. Biking, hiking, jogging, running, water aerobics, gardening, dancing, or playing sports can help you meet your aerobic activity goal.
Smoking increases inflammation in the body and can damage cells, increasing your risk of developing diabetes. The Food and Drug Administration notes that smokers have a 30 to 40 percent greater chance of developing diabetes than non-smokers. Smoking also increases your risk of dry eye, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, uveitis, Grave's disease, and optic nerve problems, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Don't let diabetic eye disease destroy your sight. Follow these recommendations and schedule yearly eye examinations. If it's time for your next exam, or you've noticed changes in your vision, get in touch with our office.