If you have diabetes, you are at higher risk of developing certain eye diseases, including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and retinal detachment. The good news is that you can preserve your vision and reduce your chances of eye disease, even if you have diabetes. November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, and EyeSmart encourages anyone with diabetes to follow these five steps to preserve your vision in the years to come.
- Get a comprehensive dilated eye examination from your ophthalmologist at least once a year. In its early stages, diabetic eye disease often has no symptoms. A dilated eye exam allows your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) to thoroughly examine retina and optic nerve for signs of damage before you notice any change to your vision. Regularly monitoring your eyes’ health allows your ophthalmologist to begin treatment as soon as possible if signs of disease begin to appear. People age 65 and older may qualify for an eye exam at no out-of-pocket cost through EyeCare America. To see if you or a loved one is eligible, visit www.eyecareamerica.org.
- Control your blood sugar. When your blood sugar is too high, it can affect the shape of your eye’s lens, causing blurry vision, which goes back to normal after your blood sugar stabilizes. High blood sugar can also damage the blood vessels in your eyes. Maintaining good control of your blood sugar helps prevent these problems.
- Maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. High blood pressure and high cholesterol can put you at greater risk for eye disease and vision loss. Keeping both under control will not only help your eyes but your overall health.
- Quit smoking. If you smoke, your risk for diabetic retinopathy and other diabetes-related eye diseases is higher. Giving up tobacco will help reduce that risk.
- Exercise. Exercise is good for your eyes. It’s also good for your diabetes. Regular exercise can help your eyes stay as healthy as possible while helping to control your diabetes.
Learn more about diabetic eye disease by visiting www.geteyesmart.org and ordering a free informational DVD called “Preventing Vision Loss from Diabetes,” which is available in English and Spanish from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.