Diabetic retinopathy is a potentially sight-threatening complication of diabetes that affects the eyes. It occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. Below we list the causes, signs, and treatments for diabetic retinopathy. We also discuss tips to help prevent diabetic retinopathy.
Prolonged exposure to high blood sugar levels is the primary cause of diabetic retinopathy. This damages the small blood vessels in the retina, leading to their leakage or abnormal growth. Other risk factors include long duration of diabetes, uncontrolled blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels.
In the early stages, there may be no noticeable symptoms. As the condition progresses, common signs include blurred or fluctuating vision, dark or empty areas in the field of vision, difficulty seeing at night, and the presence of floaters or spots in the field of vision. In severe cases, diabetic retinopathy can result in complete vision loss.
- The primary goal of treating diabetic retinopathy is to slow down or halt the progression of the disease to preserve vision. The treatment options include:
- Blood sugar management
- Blood pressure control
- Laser treatment
- Vitrectomy (removing the gel-like fluid within the eye to clear the vision and repair the retina)
1. Keep your blood sugar levels under control
Consistently monitoring and maintaining your blood sugar levels is crucial for preventing diabetic retinopathy. High blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels in the retina, leading to the development of this condition.
2. Control your blood pressure
High blood pressure can worsen the damage to blood vessels in the eyes caused by diabetes. Regularly check your blood pressure and take steps to keep it under control.
3. Maintain a healthy diet
Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help in managing diabetes and overall eye health. Limit your intake of processed foods, sugary drinks, and foods high in saturated and trans fats.
4. Exercise regularly
Engaging in regular physical activity can help improve blood sugar control, lower blood pressure, and enhance circulation, all of which contribute to preventing diabetic retinopathy.
5. Quit smoking
Smoking can increase the risk of diabetic retinopathy and other eye problems. If you are a smoker, talk to your healthcare provider about cessation options and seek support to quit smoking as soon as possible.
6. Get regular eye exams
Regular and comprehensive eye exams are crucial for early detection and timely treatment of diabetic retinopathy. These exams allow eye care professionals to monitor your eye health, identify any signs of retinopathy or other eye issues, and provide appropriate treatment.
7. Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations
It is essential to follow your healthcare provider’s advice regarding medication, insulin injections, or other treatments for managing diabetes. Properly managing diabetes can significantly reduce the risk and progression of diabetic retinopathy.
8. Take care of your overall health
Make sure to manage any other health conditions you may have, such as high cholesterol or heart disease, as they can also impact eye health. Take prescribed medications, follow a healthy lifestyle, and attend regular check-ups to keep these conditions under control.
Remember, prevention is key when it comes to diabetic retinopathy. By maintaining good overall health you can significantly reduce the risk of diabetic retinopathy and its complications.