Diabetic retinopathy resulting in impaired vision is one of the leading causes of blindness in American adults today. It accounts for most cases of new blindness in adults between the ages of 20 and 74. While this problem affects millions of Americans, it is also a highly preventable issue.
What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?
As one of the most serious long-term effects of uncontrolled diabetes, diabetic retinopathy can result in vision loss or completely blindness. This occurs because damage to the blood vessels in the eyes, caused by diabetes, affects blood flow to the tissues of the eyes and the nerves surrounding them, particularly the retina, which makes it increasingly difficult for the eye to see light.
Preventing Diabetic Retinopathy
While diabetic retinopathy is difficult to impossible to treat once it has progressed, it can be prevented from the outset. Here are a few tips for preventing diabetic retinopathy.
- Reduce your risk factors for diabetes. The best, fail-safe way to avoid developing diabetic retinopathy is to avoid developing diabetes in the first place. While there are, of course, certain genetic risk factors at hand, much of diabetes relies on lifestyle factors. Exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and staying at a weight that is right for your body are all good ways to ensure that you avoid developing diabetes.
- If you do have pre-diabetes or diabetes, keep your symptoms under control. This means that your blood sugar must stay within a healthy range, you must keep your blood pressure down, and you must keep your cholesterol and triglycerides within a healthy range. When diabetes is controlled with treatment and lifestyle choices, the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy is significantly reduced.
- Get your eyes checked regularly. Everyone should get their eyes checked at least once per year, but this is absolutely crucial for individuals with diabetes. Treatment of diabetic retinopathy must begin as soon as any abnormalities in the blood vessels are seen, which means that early detection is crucial for preserving sight.
- Don’t smoke. While smoking hasn’t been linked directly to diabetic retinopathy, smoking can cause vascular problems and further interrupt blood flow.
- Visit your doctor if you experience any changes in your vision. Blurriness, dimming, and other changes in your vision may simply be a sign of aging – but they can also be a sign of diabetic retinopathy. If you experience any sudden changes in how you see, make an appointment with an eye specialist right away.
The most direct way to avoid and prevent diabetic retinopathy is by staying in good enough health that you avoid diabetes in the first place. If, however, you have been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes, keep your symptoms under control in order to avoid a worsening of your condition and to keep your good vision well into old age. To learn more about other eye health topics, including Tips on how to prevent diseases, follow this link.