According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, diabetic retinopathy is currently the most common cause of legal blindness in adults. In fact, the disease affects millions of individuals suffering from type 1 or type 2 diabetes by damaging the blood vessels found in the light-sensitive tissues around the retina. In most cases, diabetic retinopathy has no symptoms, but as it progresses it can lead to severe vision problems and even blindness.
Unfortunately, the longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop diabetic retinopathy, with statistics showing that up to 80% of all patients who have had diabetes for 10 years or more are likely to be affected. The good news is that at least 90% of those cases can be reduced with proper treatment. Below are five steps you can take to help avoid diabetic retinopathy.
1. Control your blood sugar levels
Keep your blood sugar levels under control by eating as healthy as possible and frequently monitoring your blood sugar levels. Ensuring you don't miss taking your insulin will also go a long way towards greatly reducing your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.
2. Control your blood pressure
Studies have shown that diabetic retinopathy is more likely to occur in people who have high blood pressure. Fortunately, you can reduce the risk of high blood pressure by limiting your intake of sodium, alcohol and caffeine, as well as getting regular exercise and avoiding stress. Speak with your physician for other ways you can control your blood pressure.
3. Get regular eye exams
As previously mentioned, diabetic retinopathy has virtually no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. That's why it's so important to visit your optometrist for a comprehensive exam. Be sure to book an appointment at least once a year or as soon as you notice any changes in your vision—even if it doesn't seem significant. The sooner diabetic retinopathy is detected, the easier it is to treat.
4. Avoid the side effects of smoking
While clinical studies have yet to find a direct link between smoking and diabetic retinopathy, heavy smokers are more likely to aggravate the condition. Smoking has also been shown to have a direct impact on blood flow and the overall health of your eyes. In other words, the sooner you butt out, the less likely you are to develop diabetic retinopathy.
5. Stay physically active
For diabetics, exercise is a proven way to keep blood sugar in range, which in turn can significantly reduce the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. A brisk walk, jog or bike ride not only offers numerous other health benefits, but could very well mean the difference between maintaining and losing your vision.
For more information on how to minimize the risks of diabetic retinopathy, book an appointment with an FYidoctors optometrist today.