Diabetes is a growing health concern affecting millions of people in America. People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing several eye conditions, including diabetic retinopathy. Fortunately, there are several practical steps you can take to prevent this condition and preserve your vision.
This diabetes-related eye condition affects the blood vessels in the retina and can cause vision loss and blindness. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop the condition. Uncontrolled high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels throughout the body over time, including those in the retina.
The small blood vessels in the retina can start to bleed or leak when they become blocked by sugar. This blockage can lead to the growth of weaker blood vessels that are prone to bleeding or leaking as well.
At first, diabetic retinopathy may not cause any symptoms or only mild vision issues. However, it can lead to blindness if left untreated. Some of the symptoms you may experience include:
Empty or dark areas in your vision
Poor night vision
Impaired color vision
You can lower your risk of developing this diabetes complication or prevent it from worsening by taking the following steps:
Making several lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of retinopathy and improve your overall health. Some of the things you should do include:
Eating a balanced, healthy diet
Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
Limiting your alcohol intake
Your doctor may also recommend medication to help control your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels.
You may experience little or no symptoms of retinopathy at first. However, you can lose your eyesight if the condition worsens. Eye care professionals recommend annual dilated eye exams to check for early signs of diabetic retinopathy. You should get regular eye exams even if you do not have any issues with your eyesight.
A dilated eye exam will allow your eye doctor to identify even the most subtle signs of retinopathy. There are several effective treatments available to protect your vision and prevent the condition from worsening.
It is easier to manage your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels if you monitor them regularly. Keeping them low will reduce your chances of developing retinopathy. You can keep your blood sugar level low through exercise, diet, and prescribed medication. Monitoring your cholesterol and blood pressure regularly and taking appropriate steps to control both will help protect the health of your eyes.
High levels of sodium or salt in your diet can increase your blood pressure. Instead, use spices and herbs for flavor. A low-salt diet will also help reduce inflammation in the retinal blood vessels and keep them healthy.
Other steps to prevent diabetic retinopathy include consuming more fruit and less fat, stopping smoking, and controlling stress levels. Limiting your alcohol intake will also be beneficial.
Do not wait until your annual comprehensive eye exam to inform your eye doctor about your symptoms. Contact them immediately if you notice sudden vision changes such as eye pain, redness, blurring, floaters, spots, or loss of vision. You may need treatment to prevent or slow vision loss.
For more on diabetic retinopathy, visit I-Care Optical at our Tampa, Florida office. Call (813) 806-0812 to schedule an appointment today.