Updated: Nov 19, 2018
November is Diabetic Eye Disease Month
Diabetes, a blood sugar disease, can have adverse effects if uncontrolled, leading to complications with the vascular system, vision, kidneys, and more. We sat down with Dr. Dave to talk about how a healthy lifestyle can prevent vision loss when living with Diabetes.
TFEC: What is the most common mistake diabetics make when it comes to their eye health?
Dr. Dave: Not getting their eyes examined yearly. Diabetes is one the leading causes of blindness, especially in patients younger than 60. Diabetic retinopathy (leaking of small blood vessels in the retina) is often asymptomatic, even as it becomes increasingly severe. Early detection and treatment can help limit the extent of damage caused by diabetic eye disease.
TFEC: What are some ways diabetics and people at risk for diabetes can prevent vision problems?
Dr. Dave: The best way to reduce risk of the more severe complications from diabetes is good blood glucose control. Control is probably best gauged by regular measurements of the hemoglobin A1c value. Maintaining an A1c below 7.0 is a good starting point for most diabetics and significantly reduces risk of diabetic complications. If possible, even tighter control of the A1c can further reduce risk. Also, as previously mentioned, routine monitoring for diabetic eye disease can help protect against vision loss.
TFEC: What's an easy fix or lifestyle change that someone can implement that will reduce their risk?
Dr. Dave: That's sort of like asking for an easy fix/lifestyle change for obesity. There isn't one! Ultimately, appropriate diet and exercise practices will be the best defense against diabetes and diabetic complications. By and large, practices that maintain good cardio health also help lower diabetic risk. That's why doctors now tend to control a diabetic patient's blood pressure and cholesterol as a "bundle" with blood glucose. This is sometimes referred to as the "ABC's" of diabetes management.
A = A1c control
B = Blood pressure control
C = Cholesterol control
TFEC: why is an eye exam important if you're diabetic or have diabetes in your family?
Dr. Dave: It is estimated that 40-45% of Americans with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy. Again, often diabetic retinopathy is asymptomatic until it is quite advanced. Diabetic retinopathy causes no pain. If the very center of the visual retina (the macula) is not significantly affected by leakage or swelling, then a person may be completely unaware of imminent, vision threatening diabetic changes.
Eye examinations monitor for diabetic eye disease, and can also help the primary care physician and/or endocrinologist gauge how well current treatment is working. Further, when the eye examination is normal (no diabetic retinopathy present), it is a reassuring thing to know that the eyes are healthy.
Do you have questions about diabetes and vision? Leave a comment and we'll ask Dr. Dave!