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Preventing Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetic Eyes

Diabetic eye disease is actually a group of complications associated with diabetes. They include diabetic retinopathy, cataract, and glaucoma. All of them can cause serious vision loss or even blindness.

Even worse—these conditions sneak up and can catch you off guard.

But, early detection, timely treatment, and careful follow-up care may prevent vision loss.

Akbar Shakoor, MD, a specialist at the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah, talks about these conditions and shares his "watch list" for all diabetic patients.

How Does Diabetes Cause Vision Loss?

Uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina, the part of your eye that converts light into electrical signals that allow us to see. Damage to these delicate blood vessels can lead to swelling of the macula, the central part of your retina that allows us to see detail.

Diabetic retinal damage can also lead to bleeding in the eye, scarring, high eye pressure (glaucoma) and even retinal detachment. Diabetic retinopathy or diabetic retinal damage is a leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.

How Can I Prevent Vision Loss From Diabetes?

Control Your Blood Sugar

Keep your blood sugar in the target range by eating a diet low in sugar and other simple carbohydrates, exercising regularly, and checking your blood sugar often. Make sure to work with your primary care physician, an endocrinologist, and perhaps even a nutritionist. Reliably take insulin or other medications as prescribed by your physician.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

Cook at home using fresh ingredients. Avoid excessive consumption of red meat, and eat your vegetables! Avoid fried foods, refined carbohydrates, and sugary beverages

Control Your Blood Pressure

Controlling your blood pressure may protect your eyes from diabetic retinopathy.

Get an Annual Dilated Eye Exam

Visit an ophthalmologist or optometrist yearly, or more often if needed. Early detection and treatment can save you from irreversible vision loss.

If you have vision problems such as 'floaters' in your vision or blurry vision, see an ophthalmologist immediately.

What Can Be Done for Me if I Have Eye Damage From Diabetes?

Your ophthalmologist can perform laser procedures to stop progression of the disease and reduce swelling. Medications may also be injected straight into the eye to help reduce swelling. Surgery is a later resort to clear out blood and remove scar tissue that may be causing the retina to swell or detach.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month.