When we think about diabetes, we often think about one isolated problem: managing blood sugar. But the ripple effects of this disease can cause problems with all sorts of body systems and organs – including your eyes.
Diabetic retinopathy (DR) can occur when high blood sugar damages the retina’s blood vessels. And it just so happens to be the leading cause of blindness in America, though some people with DR have no symptoms or mild symptoms.
Fortunately, we have 5 action steps for you to take in order to prevent diabetic retinopathy:
- Watch Your Diet
Remember this: what you eat today could affect your eyesight tomorrow. Make a healthy diet your #1 priority. Limit salts and sugars. Boost up nutrient-rich produce, low-glycemic grains, and lean proteins.
Don’t forget that what you drink is a part of your diet. Sugar sneaks its way into countless drinks (including “health” drinks). And when it comes to alcohol – diabetics are encouraged to have no more than two drinks for a man or one drink for a woman, though diabetics should always check in with their doctor about alcohol consumption.
- Get Moving
A good general movement goal is 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. This could be taking a brisk walk, going for a swim, or trying fun exercise classes at your local gym. It’s super manageable if you break it down: 25 minutes, 6 days a week.
- Quit The Cigarettes
Stopping smoking – or any other form of tobacco use – can be difficult. But it is one of the best ways to dramatically lower your chances of developing diabetic retinopathy. If you are having trouble quitting on your own, your doctor should be able to give you the tools necessary for success.
- Know Your Numbers
Taking the time to check your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure numbers daily (or perhaps multiple times a day) can literally save your vision.
When you always know what is going on with your body, you can quickly attend to any issues that arise. This is key for preventing diabetic retinopathy. The better your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure – the better chances of happy, healthy eyes. Here are some general numbers to shoot for:
- Blood Sugar: Should be near 48 mmol/l (about 6.5%)
- Cholesterol: Should not be over 4 mmol/l
- Blood Pressure: Should not be over 140/80
- Get Screened
Knowledge is power.
Early detection is vital to preventing and/or managing diabetic retinopathy. You should be going in for yearly DB screening appointments. These screens can catch problems way before you could even tell something may be off.
Of course, if you have any strange eye-related symptoms in between your annual screenings, always visit your primary care physician or your eye care professional as soon as possible. These could include:
- Change in vision (worsened, blurry, double)
- Pain, pressure, or redness
- Any amount of vision loss
Yes, diabetic retinopathy is real and it can steal your eyesight. So it’s extremely important to pay attention to the possibility. But find in hope in the fact that there are real tools available to you to cross DR off your list of worries. So make sure you schedule an appointment today with your eye care professional and get that screening.