Four ways to manage diabetes
By Afrouz Motedaeiny, O.D.
For diabetics, managing the disease can help the quality of your sight
Diabetes is a chronic disease that currently has no cure. It can affect numerous parts of your body, from your eyes all the way down to your toes.
More than half of diabetics develop diabetic retinopathy, which permanently damages retina tissue. Excessive blood sugar levels leave a sticky coating on red blood cells, causing cholesterol to build up in blood vessels and over time, damaging your eyes.
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in developed countries, and one of the three leading causes of vision loss in the elderly.
Managing diabetes can help prevent diabetic retinopathy and help the quality of your eyesight. Here are four ways to manage diabetes:
- Regular exercise improves circulation throughout the body, including the eyes, and helps regulate blood sugar, among many other benefits. As little as 20 minutes of walking per day is proven to provide benefits to people with diabetes.
- Don’t smoke. A diabetic’s blood vessels are already weakened by high blood pressure, and smoking accelerates that damage to blood vessels. It’s a dangerous combination for delicate blood vessels in the retina.
- Manage blood sugar levels. Diabetics should have a good understanding of how to manage their blood sugar, and they need to see their primary care physician and endocrinologist on a regular basis.
In addition to what the numbers say, diabetics sometimes guide their lifestyle decisions on how they feel. Their blood sugar might reach 300 but they feel okay, or it may dip to 90 and they skip a meal. This kind of informal management is a bad idea. Diabetics need to understand their blood sugar levels and how best to moderate them.
- Get frequent eye exams. For diabetics, frequent eye exams can lead to early detection of diabetic retinopathy. More frequent eye exams are also recommended for people who have already developed retinopathy. Laser surgery for those with early signs of retinopathy has been shown to be effective, reducing severe vision loss by 50 percent.
Damage to blood vessels builds over time, which puts vision at risk. With adequate blood sugar control, a healthy lifestyle, and regular eye exams, diabetics can take the proper steps to protect their eyes and vision.
About the author
Afrouz Motedaeiny, O.D. is an Associate Medical Director of Premier Eye Care, a national managed eye care company based in Tampa, Florida and with operation centers in Delray Beach, Florida and Honolulu, Hawaii. She has eight years of experience in medical optometry and worked with a large practice in Miami before joining Premier in 2013.