How to Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is one of the leading causes of vision loss around the world. Of an estimated 285 million people with diabetes mellitus worldwide, approximately one-third have signs of diabetic retinopathy.
Fortunately, there are several steps people with diabetes can take to prevent or minimize vision loss.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease caused by high blood sugar levels that damage the small blood vessels clustered within your retina. This leads to swelling or fluid leakage and can result in vision loss and even blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy also raises the risk of retinal detachment and/or glaucoma.
Because the early stages of diabetic retinopathy tend to be symptom-free, permanent retinal damage may occur before any obvious signs are noticed and the disease is diagnosed.
Ways to Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy
There are a number of ways to preserve your vision and reduce the risk of vision and eye damage due to diabetic retinopathy.
Visit your eye doctor for annual eye exams
In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy typically does not present any noticeable symptoms. Therefore, it’s crucial for people with diabetes to have annual comprehensive eye exams in order to identify the disease long before symptoms appear.
During a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor will use special imaging technology and diagnostic tools to evaluate your retina, optic nerve and macula.
Control your blood sugar
Diabetes prevents the body from adequately storing and using sugar, resulting in an accumulation of sugar in the bloodstream. High blood glucose levels damage blood vessels all over the body, including your eyes.
To protect your eyes from injury and vision loss, it’s critical to keep your blood sugar levels under control.
Maintain healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure
Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure will not only help keep your heart healthy but your eyes as well.
Speak with your doctor to learn about the most effective ways to maintain a safe and healthy level of cholesterol and blood pressure.
We all know that exercise is good for our physical and emotional health. For those with diabetes, it is all the more important, as routine physical activity helps control and reduce blood sugar levels.
Please note that you should always consult your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen.
Smoking is particularly dangerous for those with diabetes. Here’s why:
- When exposed to high levels of nicotine, the insulin that lowers your blood sugar becomes less effective. You may thus require higher insulin doses to maintain blood sugar levels.
- Smoking induces oxidative stress, which occurs when smoke-derived chemicals react with oxygen in the body. This, in turn, damages the cells in your body and eyes.
- Cigarette smoking disrupts normal cell function and induces inflammation. When blood vessels that are swollen, they are more likely to burst and cause fluid to leak into the retina, resulting in ocular damage and vision loss.
As you can see, it’s critical to quit smoking— and not just for the body, but also for the eyes. We highly recommend that you seek out professional guidance on the most effective ways to kick the habit.
If you have diabetes, you are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. To reduce your risk and protect your vision, schedule an eye exam with Niwot Eyecare and Vision Therapy today.Our practice serves patients from Niwot, Longmont, Boulder, and Erie, Colorado and surrounding communities.