Important Tips for Diabetic Eye Care
November will be Diabetes Awareness Month. There certainly is plenty to be aware of when it comes to this condition—and diabetic eye care is a big part of it.
Diabetes can have wide-ranging complications across the body. The eyes are far from immune from these risks, but the good news is that there is still more than enough hope for most diabetic patients to have healthy eyes throughout their lives. The key is a commitment to preventative care, so that small problems never have a chance to worsen into something much more serious and difficult to manage.
Ideal diabetic eye care involves both knowing how diabetes can affect your eyes and what you can do as an individual to greatly reduce your risk of complications. No matter how healthy your eyes currently are, the best time to start paying attention is right now!
How Does Diabetes Affect Your Eyes?
One of the primary ways in which diabetes interferes with eye health is by impairing circulation within your eyes.
Within the retina runs a network of tiny blood vessels. It is the job of all blood vessels to provide the elements our cells need to survive, such as oxygen, growth factors for repair, and nutrients. In the retina, it is especially important for blood vessels to help keep nerves healthy, as they are the structures that transmit the light we receive as signals to the brain, which processes it as what we see.
Diabetes can damage circulation to our eyes, just as it can other areas of the body. However, without healthy circulation, the nerves in our retinas can become damaged, ultimately resulting in vision impairment. This condition is known as diabetic retinopathy.
In several studies, people with diabetes had more severe visual field loss when they had glaucoma. This is likely occurring from the compromise of circulation to the optic nerve.
People with diabetes are also more likely to develop cataracts at a younger age, and the condition tends to progress more quickly than in those who do not have diabetes.
How Can You Help Prevent Diabetic Eye Problems?
While the risks of impaired vision and blindness are certainly higher for someone with diabetes than someone who does not, most people with diabetes do not end up with major disorders. A crucial factor in not developing these disorders, however, is taking simple steps to lower your risk.
The best thing about many of these steps is that they benefit your whole body—not just your eyes!
Manage Your Blood Sugar Levels
Keeping your blood sugar levels in check is an essential element of managing diabetes as a whole, and will have a significant effect on your eye health as well.
In addition to daily at-home testing, it is also beneficial to have an A1c blood test conducted several times per year. The result should be around 7 percent or less, but is best tracked and discussed with your primary physician for diabetic care.
Keep Your Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Healthy, Too!
Anything that further interferes with your circulation gives diabetes even more of an upper hand to interfere with your eyes. Additional conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol are bad for your overall health in themselves, but can really make combatting eye damage a greater challenge than it needs to be.
Steps you can take to reduce these numbers can also have wide-reaching benefits. Take, for example…
Few people link exercise directly with eye health. However, engaging in full-body exercise is both great for your circulation and your long-term eye health as a whole.
If you decide to start a full exercise regimen, it is important to discuss with your primary care physician the best ways to do so. Not only can they help you determine what types of exercise would be best for you to perform, but they can also show you when you should check your blood sugar levels before and after a workout.
Exercise can have a substantial effect on blood sugar levels, so it is important to keep them in check around your workouts and respond accordingly to avoid dangerous rises or drops in your level. Always have insulin or snacks on hand.
Put a Stop to Smoking
If there was ever a time to get off the habit, it… well, it has been always.
But quitting smoking, no matter what age you are or how long you have done it, will have positive effects on your health—especially if you have diabetes. Smoking wreaks havoc on your blood vessels, and you will need them to be as healthy as possible.
If you need help putting an end to smoking, there are many aids and programs to help. Please do not be afraid to reach out and ask for them.
Maintain Regular Eye Check-Ups with Us!
Regardless of how many preventative measures you can take with diabetic eye care, there is still a chance that problems can develop. If they do, you want them addressed as soon as possible.
We are in your corner as your eye care specialists, keeping track of your eye health and detecting issues before they have a chance to lead to more serious complications. Being proactive is the key to all great diabetic care.
Schedule an appointment with our office by calling (616) 772-2020. If you prefer to contact us electronically, fill out our online contact form and a member of our staff will reach out to you.