Blindness Risk High for Those With Unmanaged Diabetes

What You Should Know Eye disease due to diabetes is the most common cause of blindness. Many causes of blindness can not be prevented . However, type-2 diabetes can often be avoided with weight control, regular exercise and a healthy diet. There is a high risk of permanent vision loss if diabetes symptoms are not managed daily. Short-term uncontrolled diabetes can temporarily blur vision. Cataracts are also more common among diabetics. The longer a person has diabetes, the higher the chances of developing diabetic eye damage known as retinopathy. Retinopathy occurs when the retina, the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye, is damaged by high blood sugar and high blood pressure (hypertension). In retinopathy, high blood sugar and high blood pressure damage the small blood vessels in the retina. Bleeding from the small vessels and blocked vessels can starve the retina of oxygen. As many as 45 percent of U.S. diabetics have some retinopathy. Retinopathy can lead to permanent blindness. For some diabetics, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. Some people develop spots (called cotton wool spots) that block parts of their vision. Some patients also develop problems with peripheral vision. Patients with advanced retinopathy may also lose their central vision when fluid causes the macula to swell.
Diabetics can reduce the risk of vision loss from retinopathy. Early discovery of retinopathy is important. Early treatment can save vision. Experts recommend that diabetics get a professional eye exam each year. Many optometrists and ophthalmologists take special photographs of the inside of both eyes to check for any abnormalities. Photographs can be compared from year to year to discover any changes. Many diabetics in the Mid-South do not get regular eye exams. For example, a review of 2007 Medicare claims patients showed that for every 10 Medicare patients with diabetes, only five got their recommended retinal eye exam. Treatment can be effective in reducing the risk of vision loss. Laser treatment might reduce bleeding by sealing blood vessels in precise areas of the eye. Laser treatment can also eliminate unusual blood vessel growth. Laser treatment is usually done in an outpatient eye clinic. Retinopathy is possible in non-diabetic patients. Causes can include hypertension, cardiovascular disease, blocked arteries, infections, and past radiation therapy to the head. What You Should Do Get your vision checked regularly even if you don't think you have diabetes. Diabetic patients should protect their vision by controlling blood glucose levels (blood sugar) and blood pressure. People with diabetes should make sure to reach the following blood sugar and blood pressure goals: (1) Average blood sugar (HbA1C) less than 7 percent, and (2) Blood pressure less than 130/80

Diabetics should get regular primary care and have periodic visits with a diabetes specialist and a dietitian.

Diabetics should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam from their eye care professional at least yearly. People with retinopathy may need an eye exam more often.

Contact your eye professional if you have vision loss or a major change in your vision.

Get a thorough medical check-up if you have diabetes. Your check- up should include blood pressure checks in your arms and ankles, a urine test for protein, blood tests for HbA1c (average blood sugar), cholesterol and blood fats (triglycerides), a professional eye exam, and a check for any unusual symptoms such as swelling and skin problems on your legs, ankles and feet.

If you smoke, stop immediately.

If you are pregnant with diabetes, consider getting regular care from a maternal-fetal high-risk pregnancy specialist.

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