More than 29 million people in the United States have diabetes, this represents 9.3% of the population. What you may not know is that diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults between the ages of 20 and 74. However, with early detection, diabetic eye disease can be treated to improve vision.
People with diabetes have too much sugar in the blood. This happens as a result of the pancreas not making enough insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar, or because the body’s cells don’t respond normally to insulin. When sugar remains high in the blood over a long period of time, complications can occur throughout the body, including the eyes.
Diabetic Retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels in the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. As diabetes progresses, blood vessels can become blocked and prevent parts of the retina from receiving a supply of blood and nutrients. Blood vessels can also swell and leak fluid into the macula, the highly sensitive area of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision.
The best way to reduce your risk of diabetic retinopathy is to control your diabetes by doing the following:
- Keep blood sugar levels within the target range every day.
- Take your diabetes medicine as instructed by your doctor.
- Eat nutritious foods in moderation, and exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight
- Keep your blood pressure in normal range
- Don’t smoke tobacco.
- See your retina specialist at least once per year for a dilated eye examination to detect early signs of diabetic eye disease before your vision is affected.
Diabetic retinopathy can be prevented or treated when detected early, so by practicing these few basic tips you will on your way to maintaining a healthy eye sight!