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Diabetes eye care

Diabetic retinopathy - care

Diabetes can harm your eyes. It can damage the small blood vessels in your retina, which is the back part of your eye. This condition is called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes also increases your risk of having glaucoma, cataracts, and other eye problems.

If you have diabetes, work with your health care provider to take good care of your eyes.

Diabetes and Your Eyes

If you have diabetes, you may not know there is any damage to your eyes until the problem is very bad. Your provider can catch problems early if you get regular eye exams.

If your provider finds eye problems early, medicines and other treatments may help prevent them from getting worse.

You Need Regular Eye Exams

Every year, you should have an eye exam by an eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist). Choose an eye doctor who takes care of people with diabetes.

Your eye exam may include:

  • Dilating your eyes to allow a good view of the entire retina. Only an eye doctor can do this exam.
  • At times, special photographs of your retina may replace the dilated eye exam. This is called digital retinal photography.

Your eye doctor may ask you to come more or less often than once a year depending on the eye exam results and how well your blood sugar is controlled.

How to Prevent Eye Problems

Control your blood sugar levels. High blood sugar increases your chance of having eye problems.

High blood sugar can also cause blurred vision that is not related to diabetic retinopathy. This kind of blurred vision is caused by having too much sugar and water in the lens of the eye, which is in front of the retina.

Control your blood pressure:

  • Blood pressure less than 140/90 is a good goal for people with diabetes. Your provider may tell you that your pressure needs to be lower than 140/90.
  • Have your blood pressure checked often and at least twice each year.
  • If you take medicines to control your blood pressure, take them as your doctor instructs.

Control your cholesterol levels:

  • Abnormal cholesterol levels can also lead to diabetic retinopathy.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicines to help lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides. Take the medicines as directed.

DO NOT smoke. If you need help quitting, ask your provider.

If you already have eye problems, ask your provider if you should avoid exercises that can strain the blood vessels in your eyes. Exercises that may make eye problems worse include:

  • Weight lifting and other exercises that make you strain
  • High-impact exercise, such as football or hockey

Make it Easier for Yourself at Home

If your vision is affected by diabetes, make sure your home is safe enough that your chance of falling is low. Ask your provider about having a home assessment done. For people with diabetes, the combination of poor vision and nerve problems in the legs and feet can affect balance. This increases the chance of falling.

If you cannot read the labels on your medicines easily:

  • Use felt tip pens to label medicine bottles, so you can read them easily.
  • Use rubber bands or clips to tell medicine bottles apart.
  • Ask someone else to give you your medicines.
  • Always read labels with a magnifying lens.
  • Use a pillbox with compartments for days of the week and times of the day, if you need to take medicines more than once a day.

Never guess when taking your medicines. If you are unsure of your doses, talk with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.

Keep medicines and other household items organized in a cabinet so you know where they are.

To make foods that are on your diabetes meal plan:

  • Use large-print cookbooks
  • Use a full-page magnifier
  • High-definition (HD) magnifier
  • For online recipes, use the zoom function on your keyboard to make the font bigger on your monitor
  • Ask your eye doctor about other low vision aids

When to Call the Doctor

Call your provider if you have any of the following:

  • Cannot see well in dim light
  • Have blind spots
  • Have double vision (you see two things when there is only one)
  • Vision is hazy or blurry and you cannot focus
  • Eye pain
  • Headaches
  • Spots floating in your eyes
  • Cannot see things on the side of your field of vision
  • See shadows

References

American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Preferred practice pattern guidelines. Diabetic retinopathy PPP 2019. www.aao.org/preferred-practice-pattern/diabetic-retinopathy-ppp. Updated October 2019. Accessed January 14, 2020.

American Diabetes Association. 10. Microvascular complications and foot care: standards of medical care in diabetes-2018. Diabetes Care. 2018;41(Suppl1):S105-S118. PMID: 29222381 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29222381.

Bowling B. Retinal vascular disease. In: Bowling B, ed. Kanski's Clinical Ophthalmology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap13.

Cagliero E. Diabetes and long-term complications. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 51.

    • Diabetes

      Animation

    •  

      Diabetes - Animation

      Diabetes is on the rise worldwide, and is a serious, lifelong disease that can lead to heart disease, stroke, and lasting nerve, eye and foot problems. Let's talk about diabetes and the difference between the three types of diabetes. So, what exactly is diabetes and where does it come from? An organ in your body called the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that controls the levels of your blood sugar. When you have too little insulin in your body, or when insulin doesn't work right in your body, you can have diabetes, the condition where you have abnormally high glucose or sugar levels in your blood. Normally when you eat food, glucose enters your bloodstream. Glucose is your body's source of fuel. Your pancreas makes insulin to move glucose from your bloodstream into muscle, fat, and liver cells, where your body turns it into energy. People with diabetes have too much blood sugar because their body cannot move glucose into fat, liver, and muscle cells to be changed into and stored for energy. There are three major types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes happens when the body makes little or no insulin. It usually is diagnosed in children, teens, or young adults. But about 80% of people with diabetes have what's called Type 2 diabetes. This disease often occurs in middle adulthood, but young adults, teens, and now even children are now being diagnosed with it linked to high obesity rates. In Type 2 diabetes, your fat, liver, and muscle cells do not respond to insulin appropriately. Another type of diabetes is called gestational diabetes. It's when high blood sugar develops during pregnancy in a woman who had not had diabetes beforehand. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born. But, still pay attention. These women are at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes over the next 5 years without a change in lifestyle. If you doctor suspects you have diabetes, you will probably have a hemoglobin A1c test. This is an average of your blood sugar levels over 3 months. You have pre-diabetes if your A1c is 5.7% to 6.4%. Anything at 6.5% or higher indicates you have diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a wake up call to focus on diet and exercise to try to control your blood sugar and prevent problems. If you do not control your blood sugar, you could develop eye problems, have problems with sores and infections in your feet, have high blood pressure and cholesterol problems, and have kidney, heart, and problems with other essential organs. People with Type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day, usually injected under the skin using a needle. Some people may be able to use a pump that delivers insulin to their body all the time. People with Type 2 diabetes may be able to manage their blood sugar through diet and exercise. But if not, they will need to take one or more drugs to lower their blood sugar levels. The good news is, people with any type of diabetes, who maintain good control over their blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure, have a lower risk of kidney disease, eye disease, nervous system problems, heart attack, and stroke, and can live, a long and healthy life.

    • Diabetes

      Animation

    •  

      Diabetes - Animation

      Diabetes is on the rise worldwide, and is a serious, lifelong disease that can lead to heart disease, stroke, and lasting nerve, eye and foot problems. Let's talk about diabetes and the difference between the three types of diabetes. So, what exactly is diabetes and where does it come from? An organ in your body called the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that controls the levels of your blood sugar. When you have too little insulin in your body, or when insulin doesn't work right in your body, you can have diabetes, the condition where you have abnormally high glucose or sugar levels in your blood. Normally when you eat food, glucose enters your bloodstream. Glucose is your body's source of fuel. Your pancreas makes insulin to move glucose from your bloodstream into muscle, fat, and liver cells, where your body turns it into energy. People with diabetes have too much blood sugar because their body cannot move glucose into fat, liver, and muscle cells to be changed into and stored for energy. There are three major types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes happens when the body makes little or no insulin. It usually is diagnosed in children, teens, or young adults. But about 80% of people with diabetes have what's called Type 2 diabetes. This disease often occurs in middle adulthood, but young adults, teens, and now even children are now being diagnosed with it linked to high obesity rates. In Type 2 diabetes, your fat, liver, and muscle cells do not respond to insulin appropriately. Another type of diabetes is called gestational diabetes. It's when high blood sugar develops during pregnancy in a woman who had not had diabetes beforehand. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born. But, still pay attention. These women are at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes over the next 5 years without a change in lifestyle. If you doctor suspects you have diabetes, you will probably have a hemoglobin A1c test. This is an average of your blood sugar levels over 3 months. You have pre-diabetes if your A1c is 5.7% to 6.4%. Anything at 6.5% or higher indicates you have diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a wake up call to focus on diet and exercise to try to control your blood sugar and prevent problems. If you do not control your blood sugar, you could develop eye problems, have problems with sores and infections in your feet, have high blood pressure and cholesterol problems, and have kidney, heart, and problems with other essential organs. People with Type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day, usually injected under the skin using a needle. Some people may be able to use a pump that delivers insulin to their body all the time. People with Type 2 diabetes may be able to manage their blood sugar through diet and exercise. But if not, they will need to take one or more drugs to lower their blood sugar levels. The good news is, people with any type of diabetes, who maintain good control over their blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure, have a lower risk of kidney disease, eye disease, nervous system problems, heart attack, and stroke, and can live, a long and healthy life.

      A Closer Look

       

      Talking to your MD

       

      Self Care

       

      Tests for Diabetes eye care

       

      Review Date: 5/17/2018

      Reviewed By: Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update on 01-14-20.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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