Diabetes affects the heart, kidneys and nervous system, but it can also impact vision. Long-term diabetes can damage the retina of the eye, and this condition is known as diabetic retinopathy. Although there may not be symptoms in the early stages, diabetic retinopathy is characterized by blurred vision, blindness, floaters or blind spots in the visual field. If diabetes is not managed or goes undetected, you could be at risk for eye hemorrhage or even blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy cannot always be prevented, but there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing the disease. Here are a few guidelines:
- Schedule regular check-ups and exams with your primary care physician. The best way to prevent diabetic retinopathy is to prevent diabetes. Annual well exams will monitor the health of your heart and kidneys, and most exams include blood panel labs that will test your blood sugar.
- See your eye doctor every year. Did you know that an eye exam offers a glimpse of your overall health? Staying current with comprehensive eye exams offers early detection and intervention for eye diseases. People with diabetes may need to visit their eye doctors more often than non-diabetics, so ask your eye doctor how often you should schedule your exams.
- Commit to daily exercise and a healthy diet. If you are diabetic, it is important to manage your diabetes with physical activity and nutrition. Exercise and a healthy diet are also two of the best ways to prevent diabetes and diabetic retinopathy. Talk to your doctor to get recommendations on types and durations of physical activity as well as dietary
- Take all medications as directed. Taking your daily medication is essential for your health and for the proper functioning of your body. If you are diabetic, taking oral diabetes medications or insulin as directed is one of the best ways to prevent diabetic retinopathy.
Celebrate Diabetic Eye Disease Month by scheduling an annual physical exam with your primary care physician or a comprehensive eye exam with your eye doctor. November is also National Family Caregivers Month, so go the extra mile and make an appointment for a parent or elderly loved one as well.