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Living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes puts you at an increased risk for eye disease. As with most diabetes complications, a proactive approach to protecting your eyes can make a considerable difference. Fortunately, most people with diabetes will only experience minor eye issues, and with regular check-ups you can help keep your eyes healthy.
Eye diseases related to diabetes
There are three common eye diseases that can develop due to diabetes complications:
Glaucoma: When pressure builds up inside the eye it can damage the optic nerve, causing vision loss over time. Older individuals are more susceptible to glaucoma, and the longer you’ve had uncontrolled diabetes, the more likely you are to develop it. Surgery and medication are treatment options.
Cataracts: As you age, the lenses within your eyes can become cloudy, causing what’s known as cataracts. If you have uncontrolled diabetes, you’re more likely to develop cataracts at a younger age. There is evidence that high blood sugar levels create deposits that build up in the eye’s lenses1. Wearing sunglasses can can help prevent or slow the progression and, in some cases, surgery can treat this condition.
Diabetic retinopathy: Damaged blood vessels can weaken, expand, and leak into your retina, causing diabetic retinopathy. The longer you have uncontrolled diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugars are, the higher the risk of developing this condition. Laser surgery, such as focal photocoagulation, can be used as a mode of therapy2.
Keeping your risk low
Staying on top of your condition is vital to preserving your eye health. Left untreated, high blood glucose and high blood pressure will significantly increase your odds of developing eye disease. In consultation with your healthcare provider, you can take these measures to help avoid complications:
Monitor your levels. Make sure your blood glucose numbers are where they should be. Safe blood sugar levels can help stave off common eye diseases.
Exercise regularly.Moving around just 20 minutes a day can improve your glycemic control and keep your eyes healthy.
Maintain a healthy diet. Foods that are rich in vitamin A, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids have shown to be good for your vision and eye health.
Get an annual eye exam. A comprehensive, dilated eye exam by an ophthalmologist should be done each year. They can check for glaucoma, cataracts, and other eye diseases. They can also help you catch a condition early enough to avoid vision loss3.
Staying informed on the potential complications of your condition is an important aspect of your treatment plan. By understanding potential eye problems that could arise—as well as how to avoid them—you can better protect your eyes and overall health.