More than 37 million people (about 11.3% of the population) in the United States have diabetes, placing them at risk for a host of serious complications that range from lower limb amputation to vision loss.
And these risks aren’t uncommon — nearly 8 million Americans over the age of 40 have diabetic retinopathy, which is the leading cause of blindness among work-age adults. More alarming, this number is expected to double by 2050.
Now that we have your attention, our team here at LaSante Health Center, which includes both internal medicine specialists and eye health experts, wants to help protect and preserve your vision from diabetic eye disease.
To that end, here are five key steps.
Be diligent about managing blood sugar
When you have diabetes, the most important step you should take is to manage your blood sugar levels properly. Our internal medicine team can set you up with what you need to make sure that your glucose levels stay within healthy ranges.
This is a daily effort and one that you need to stay on top of to avoid the serious complications tied to diabetes, from nerve damage in your feet to loss of vision
Educate yourself about the risks
There are several eye health concerns when it comes to diabetes complications, and it's important that you understand them. Due to these diabetic eye diseases, people with diabetes have a 25 times higher risk of blindness than people without the chronic disease.
First is diabetic retinopathy, a condition in which chronically elevated sugar levels in your blood damage tiny blood vessels in your retinas. Your retinas are the layers of light-sensitive cells and tissues that receive and deliver information that enable your vision.
Other eye diseases associated with diabetes include:
- Glaucoma — a condition in which pressure inside your eyes damages your optic nerve
- Cataracts — a clouding over of your lenses
Each of these conditions has the potential to rob you of your vision.
Annual eye exams are paramount
The diabetic eye diseases we mentioned above often don’t have any obvious symptoms in their early stages. Once your vision starts to deteriorate, the disease is fairly advanced and there’s not much we can do to reverse the damage.
That’s why it’s imperative that people with diabetes have annual eye exams. During these exams, we check for the early signs of diabetic eye disease, allowing us more time to take preventive action.
Watch your blood pressure and cholesterol levels
In addition to closely monitoring your blood sugar levels, it’s equally as important to make sure that your blood pressure numbers aren't high and that your cholesterol levels are within healthy ranges.
Each of these cardiovascular conditions can cause further harm to your blood vessels, so you want to keep them as healthy as possible when you have diabetes.
Here again, our internal medicine team can partner with you to manage hypertension and high cholesterol to safeguard your health and your eyesight.
If you smoke, you’re greatly increasing your chances for eye disease, so we urge you to quit. When you add diabetes to the mix, your vision is under serious threat. So if you smoke, use your vision as another reason why you should quit.
If you want a more detailed and customized plan of attack when it comes to protecting your vision in the face of diabetes, we invite you to contact our clinic in Brooklyn, New York, today to schedule an appointment.
We serve the Flatbush and East Flatbush, Crown Heights, Park Slope, Little Haiti, Little Caribbean, and Prospect Lefferts Gardens communities.