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If You have Diabetes, Eye Care is Essential

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Matt Gougler

Diabetes packs a powerful medical punch because it frequently leads to a host of chronic, potentially fatal conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, hypertension, nervous system disease, and amputations.

As if that list isn't daunting enough, consider this disturbing fact:

Diabetes is the primary cause of blindness in adults ages 20 to 74.

In fact, all forms of diabetic eye disease have the potential to cause severe vision loss and blindness. Threats include:

  • Diabetic retinopathy – The most common cause of vision loss among diabetics, diabetic retinopathy also is the leading source of vision impairment and blindness among working-age adults. Symptoms include: spots or dark strings floating in your vision (floaters); blurred vision; fluctuating vision; impaired vision of colors; dark or vacant areas in your vision; and vision loss.
  • Diabetic macular edema – An offshoot of diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema causes swelling in an area of the retina called the macula.
  • Cataract – People with diabetes are 60 percent more likely to develop a cataract, which is a clouding of the eye’s lens.
  • Glaucoma – A group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve, glaucoma additionally can be associated with elevated pressure inside the eye. In adults, diabetes nearly doubles the risk of developing glaucoma.

Eye Care Essentials

April is Defeat Diabetes Month. ATRIO Health Plans is using this month-long commemoration to share an eye-care checklist and emphasize the importance of proper eye care for those with diabetes.

  • Blood glucose – Keep your blood glucose numbers as close to the targets that your physician has established. Bettering your blood glucose numbers can pay significant dividends in the form of lowering your risk for retinopathy.
  • Blood pressure – Commit to the goal of maintaining blood pressure readings within the range that your physician has determined are healthy for you. High blood pressure can damage the retina's tiny blood vessels. Consequently, it's important to have your blood pressure checked at every medical visit. If you're not hitting your blood-pressure numbers, ask your doctor if you could benefit from taking medication to designed to manage hypertension.
  • Diet and exercise – Pay close attention to making healthy food choices and to being physically active at least 30 minutes on most days. Doing so will reduce your need for medications to control your blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides.
  • Smoking – If you smoke, it is critically important that you stop. If necessary, talk to your doctor about smoking-cessation medications and other resources designed to improve your odds of success.
  • Dilated eye exams – Early detection and treatment of diabetic retinopathy can reduce the risk of blindness by 95 percent. Because diabetic retinopathy often isn't accompanied by symptoms in its early stages, diabetics should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least annually. Those diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy may need eye exams more frequently. People with severe non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy have a high risk of developing proliferative diabetic retinopathy; as a result, they may need a comprehensive dilated eye exam as often as every two to four months.

Stay focused on preserving eye health—this month—and every month.