January is national eye care month, so there’s no better time to talk about eye care tips and how to protect your eyes from diseases and declining eyesight. People with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts. Nearly 40 to 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy.
What is glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy?
Glaucoma is a condition where there is increased pressure in the eye leading to damage of the optic nerve and vision loss. A person with diabetes is almost twice as likely to get glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy is when damage to the blood vessels in the retina occurs. Both conditions can occur with few warning signs until it is quite advanced. Both of these conditions ultimately can lead to complete blindness. That is why regular eye exams and preventative measures are so important in keeping your eyes healthy.
Why are diabetics more prone to eye problems?
Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults. Elevated sugar levels in the blood stream can cause damage to the cells in your eyes. Having excess sugar flowing through your bloodstream can act like small shards of glass to your blood vessels. In helping to prevent this doing what you can to lower your sugar levels and manage your diabetes is extremely important.
What can you do to protect yourself from eye problems?
• Keep good control of your blood sugar levels. This is the single most important preventative step anyone with diabetes can do. Not only will proper monitoring of blood sugar levels reduce your risk of eye diseases but it can also prevent a variety of other complications from occurring as well.
• See an Ophthalmologist (an eye doctor who specializes in eye diseases) or Optometrist for regular checkups including dilated eye exams at least once a year. Early detection is important in helping to reduce further damage to your eyes. If you detect any changes to your sight, consult an eye doctor immediately.
• Keep your blood pressure in a normal range. High blood pressure along with elevated cholesterol levels play a crucial role in the maintenance of eye health.
• Eat a balanced diet with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. One of the easier ways to do this is to consume foods with a variety of color. This will also help keep your blood sugar levels in check. Maintaining a balanced diet is one of the easiest ways to ensure good overall health.
Taking the time and effort to manage your diabetes and keeping your blood sugar levels in check is important in reducing your risk of suffering from complications. Making the changes now could also reduce your risk of eye problems in the future. Do yourself a favor and start making these positive changes today, and your eyes will ultimately thank you in the long run.
Susanna Deering has a passion for nutrition and great tasting food. As a type 1 diabetic, Susanna is deeply aware first hand how important the right foods are to our diets. Learning to live with diabetes grew Susanna’s passion for nutrition and has inspired her to help others manage their health through nutrition as well.
Photo credit: mcbill