The eyes are like the windows to the soul, and for people with diabetes, they’re also a window into revealing diabetes related eye diseases. Eye care is important, especially if you have diabetes, since you have an increased risk of developing eye complications. You can help lower your risk of eye complications with these six eye care tips.
1. Control Your Blood Glucose
High blood glucose levels can damage the delicate blood vessels in your retina, and affect the shape of your eye’s lens, temporarily causing blurry vision, according to the American Diabetes Association. Three common eye diseases of people with diabetes are diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts. Diabetic retinopathy is the weakening of the tiny blood vessels in the retina, glaucoma is the buildup of pressure in the eye, and cataracts is the clouding of the lens, which can permanently blur your vision. Maintaining good glucose control can help reduce your risk of these eye problems.
2. Regular Eye Screenings
Early stages of eye diseases related to diabetes often have no symptoms, which is why it’s important for regular eye screenings. Each year, visit your ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam that includes a glaucoma test to check the pressure inside your eyes, a cataract test to check if the lens of your eye is cloudy, and a dilated eye exam to examine your retina and optic nerve for signs of damage and diseases. An optional screening test you may want to consider is retinal imaging, which helps detect diseases early and provides a permanent and historical record of changes in your eye so it’s easy to discover even subtle changes in your health year after year. Yearly eye screenings allows you to begin treatment as soon as possible if signs do appear. If you notice any change in your eye sight, don’t wait until your next appointment. Call your ophthalmologist to get in immediately.
3. Protect Your Peepers
You wouldn’t go in the sun without sunscreen would you? (No!) Protect your eyes as you would protect your skin. UVA exposure can contribute to cataracts and macular degeneration, so always shield your eyes from the sun with UVA and UVB sunglasses.
4. Quit Smoking
Smoking has a harmful effect on every body system for everyone, especially people with diabetes, and the eyes are no exception. While smoking has not been proven to increase the risk of diabetic retinopathy, it may aggravate many other health problems, including the disease of the small blood vessels. Equally important, people with diabetes have an increased risk of developing a stroke or heart attack, and smoking can significantly raise that risk. Whether you’re a smoker and have tried to quit, or want to quit for the first time, don’t give up. Talk to your healthcare team about smoking cessation options.
5. Exercise Regularly
Exercising regularly can help improve glycemic control, a major factor in determining how likely you are to develop eye damage related to diabetes. Make an appointment with yourself to exercise at least three times a week for 60 minutes each day, and treat it like a real appointment. If you’re just starting an exercise routine, start out slowly by walking 20-30 minutes a day. You can break this up into two 15 minute sessions if it works better with your schedule, too. Be sure to check with your healthcare team before starting an exercise program. If you already have eye problems, be sure to speak with your healthcare team about which exercises to avoid that can strain the blood vessels in your eyes, such as weight lifting and high impact exercises.
6. Eat a Healthy Diet
Protecting your eyes can start with eating a well-balanced diet including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc can help reduce the risk of developing cataract and macular degeneration. Here’s a list of foods you may find helpful:
- Vitamin A: orange and yellow vegetables, eggs, carrots, sweet potatoes, mango, kale, apricots, spinach
- Vitamin C: blueberries, blackberries, kiwi, broccoli, papayas, orange, lemon, melons, cauliflowers and other citrus fruits and vegetables
- Vitamin E: nuts and nut oils, avocado, pumpkin, sweet potato, mangoes, tomatoes, papaya, quinoa, brown rice, whole oats
- Beta-Carotene: asparagus, grapefruit, peppers, plums, pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, kale, carrots
- Omega-3 fatty acids: salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, pistachios, walnuts, almonds, fish oil, flaxseed oil, black currant seed oil
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin: spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli, peas, avocados
- Zinc: kidney beans, black-eye peas, lentils, sunflower seeds, spinach, cashews, mushrooms, seafood, beef, lamb, chicken, pork
Tags: diabetes care
, diabetes complications
, eye care