Over time, unstable blood sugar levels from diabetes can damage the blood vessels in the eye’s retina, or can cause abnormal blood vessels to grow on the surface of the retina. This is called diabetic retinopathy, which is a leading cause of blindness in American adults. All types of diabetes—type 1, type 2, and gestational—contribute to the development of the disease.
According to the National Eye Institute, approximately 40-45% percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes also have some degree of diabetic retinopathy. However, only about half of them are aware that they have diabetic retinopathy because their symptoms have not yet become problematic, or they have lapsed on regular eye exams to screen for the disease.
If you are diabetic, your risk for developing eye disease is also increased by various factors, including:
- How long you’ve been diabetic.
- Instability of blood sugar levels.
- High blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Being African American, Hispanic, or Native American
How To Reduce Vision Loss
For people who have diabetes and want to reduce their risk of vision loss from diabetic retinopathy, there are 5 impactful ways to control the disease:
1. Get a comprehensive eye examination, including dilation, at least once a year.
An eye exam allows your eye doctor to thoroughly examine the retina and optic nerve in both of your eyes for signs of damage. Regularly monitoring your eyes’ health allows your eye doctor to begin treatment sooner if signs of disease do appear, which reduces your chance of developing vision loss.
2. Control Blood Sugar Levels
High blood sugar causes both temporary and permanent problems. Your vision may be blurry when your blood sugar is too high, although it returns to normal after your blood sugar stabilizes. Regarding permanent problems, high blood sugar can damage the blood vessels in your eyes, eventually resulting in vision loss.
3. Don’t Smoke
If you smoke, your risk of developing all eye diseases—including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts—is significantly higher. The good news is that after people quit smoking, the risk for some eye diseases is dramatically reduced.
Countless studies have shown that exercise is crucial to your overall health, eyes included. Regular exercise helps control your diabetes, and has also proven to be effective in reducing the risk of chronic conditions that lead to vision loss.
5. Maintain healthy cholesterol & blood pressure levels
High cholesterol and/or blood pressure levels increase your risk of developing vision loss from several eye diseases, including diabetic retinopathy. Talk with your doctor about diet, lifestyle, or any medication recommendations to keep your cholesterol and blood pressure under control.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 90 percent of diabetes-related vision loss can be prevented, but early detection is key. If you have diabetes, don’t wait for signs of vision loss before you make any necessary changes to consistently follow the 5 steps recommended above.
There are often no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic eye disease, but detection and treatment of the disease in the early stages dramatically reduces your chance of permanent vision loss.
At Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical Dr. Travis Thompson helps many patients manage several common eye diseases, including diabetic retinopathy.
Since 2009, Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical has provided the highest quality vision care products and trusted optometry services to our patients in Knoxville and the surrounding areas. Our eye care professionals are dedicated to providing exceptional personal service to everyone who walks through our door. Call us at (865) 246-1500 or contact us to schedule an appointment.