Diabetes and Eye Health

November 22, 2013

Diabetes is often a lifelong condition which requires active maintenance and monitoring. Checking blood sugar daily (or as frequently as your doctor advises) can become routine. What should also become routine is maintaining a healthy diet and attempting to exercise within your body’s limitations. A diabetic diet can be seen as restrictive; this is certainly not the case, provided you make an effort to incorporate the wide range of healthy, advisable foods! A diabetic diet (which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) is beneficial for almost everyone, even people who do not have a current diabetic diagnosis.

Diabetes can greatly affect the eyes; it can cause permanent damage, damage to the back of the eye (via hemorrhages, active bleeding, and/or blood vessel growth), and fuzzy vision, especially with blood sugar fluctuations. Diabetes can increase the risk for blindness, glaucoma, and early cataract development. Diabetic retinopathy, an unfortunate and somewhat common occurrence in patients with diabetes, can range from mild to severe and can vary from nonproliferative to proliferative (the main distinction being the latter’s presentation of actively regrowing blood vessels which are extremely volatile, abnormal, and fragile). Your eye care professional monitors the health of your macula and retina with dilated examinations; while dilation can be somewhat time consuming and annoying for a few hours, it is vitally important to the health of the eye for diabetics to adhere to their advised regimen of dilated examinations.

With excess calorie and fat comes a rise in blood glucose; this can be devastating to patients with troubled endocrine systems. Severe or recurrent fluctuations can lead to stroke, blindness, and death.   Weight loss can bridge the gap between a healthy adult and an unhealthy adult; often, the difference between an active diagnosis of diabetes and no diagnosis is a few pounds. Though it can be difficult to lose weight, it is not an impossible task for anyone, provided they are willing to commit to being an active part of their own health.

If you have diabetes or you have a risk factor for diabetes (obesity, familial history, etc), a dilated eye exam can be beneficial to your overall and ocular health. Scheduling an annual exam (at least) for dilation is a good habit; diabetics may require more frequent monitoring, especially if the health of the retina is compromised or blood sugar control is especially poor. Our eye care professionals are skilled in diabetic care and are available for appointments!