We rely on our sense of sight more than any other sense. At Bard Optical, we strive for a “Vision for life”—including all stages of life. While aging does come with some unavoidable vision issues, many are preventable.
The same is true of diabetes. While diabetes patients have to be vigilant about their eye health, in particular, it is very possible to prevent, delay, and reduce the damage to vision associated with diabetes.
How To Prevent Diabetes
Preventing optical damage relies on many of the same strategies as preventing damage to other body systems. These are things like:
- controlling blood sugar,
- lowering blood pressure and cholesterol,
- maintaining a healthy diet and body mass index,
- getting regular exercise, and
- avoiding smoking.
What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Sustained high blood sugar levels cause damage to small blood vessels, both in the retina and the rest of the body. This is called diabetic retinopathy.
When these blood vessels break down, oxygen and nutrients cannot be delivered normally, and blurred vision and blindness can result. The longer a patient has lived with diabetes (either Type 1 or Type 2), the more likely they are to develop diabetic retinopathy.
There are other factors that raise the risk, most notably the degree of glycemic control: the less controlled average daily blood sugar is, the quicker a patient will develop retinopathy complications, warns the American Diabetes Association.
Who Is Likely To Get Diabetes?
In fact, people with diabetes are an astonishing 25 times more likely to suffer vision loss than people without diabetes, according to the National Eye Institute.
In developed countries, diabetic retinopathy is the number one cause of new cases of blindness among adults. It currently affects 8 million Americans with diabetes and is on the rise.
Sometimes eye doctors are the first to see evidence of diabetes because they monitor the health of blood vessels and nerves in the eye. The American Optometric Association estimates that a quarter of a million new cases of diabetes were first detected by an eye doctor in 2014.
What Are The Warning Signs Of Diabetes?
Diabetes is not primarily an eye disease, but diabetic changes in the eye can show up before other warning signs.
Other times, patients notice changes in their vision and these changes indications that diabetes is present. Most of the time, this happens in the first of the four stages of retinopathy.
Be aware of these warning signs:
- Blurred vision
- Fluctuating vision
- Dark spots
- Sudden loss of vision in one eye
- Halos around lights
- Flashing lights
- More or different eye floaters
How Is Diabetes Treated?
Patients should know that there are more medical tools than ever before to treat the condition. Just the last decade has seen technological advantages such as optical coherence tomography and wide-field fundus photography.
While these technologies are for optical applications, on the level of the whole body, The American Diabetes Foundation further notes that “Improvements in medications and devices…have also [helped] patients to optimize their metabolic control.”
Patients and their doctors can collaborate on treatment and control with a wider range of tools than ever before. This is an encouraging sign that better control is possible with awareness and collaboration.
While having diabetic retinopathy can be serious and lead to blindness if unchecked, good monitoring can help patients stay ahead of any major damage to vision.