5 Ways to Protect Your Eyes From Diabetic Retinopathy
Despite your efforts to control your diabetes, you may still be at risk for diabetic retinopathy. And you’re not alone, as this condition affects more than half of all people with diabetes, including those with type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes.
The good news is that there are things you can do to protect your eyes. And if you’re practicing healthy diabetes management, you’re already doing much of the work!
1. Get Regular Eye Exams
Adults with diabetes require consistent eye examinations, which are vital for identifying, diagnosing, or monitoring the progression of diabetic retinopathy. If caught at an earlier stage, diabetic retinopathy is much easier to manage. However, if it goes undiagnosed, you can slowly develop a more serious case. If you have diabetes, plan on scheduling a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Additionally, you should tell your doctor about sudden changes in your vision, such as blurriness, spottiness, or haziness.
2. Ensure Blood Glucose Control
With diabetic retinopathy, you must maintain healthy glucose levels and take your insulin and any other medications regularly. You’ll also have to test your glucose levels frequently. Your doctor can give you a glycosylated hemoglobin test (hemoglobin A1C). It details your average blood sugar levels for the previous 2-3 months; an A1C below 7% is ideal
3. Consume Diabetes-Friendly Foods
Dietary changes can help you control your diabetes and related eye health. They’ll also help you lose weight, making it easier to manage blood glucose. Your diet should include foods that are rich in nutrients, including:
- Healthy, fiber-rich carbohydrates, such as diabetes-friendly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, etc.
- Heart-healthy fish, including salmon, tuna, and sardines
- Fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, like avocados and olive oil
It’s also important to avoid foods with added sugars, saturated or trans fats, and high amounts of sodium. You should also reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol.
4. Shield Your Eyes
Whether you have diabetes or not, you should always wear sunglasses when outdoors to block out harmful ultraviolet (UV) light. For diabetic retinopathy patients, regular UV exposure increases diabetic macular edema (DME) risk. This condition occurs when fluid or blood accumulates in the macula, the retina’s center, which controls sharp, straight-ahead vision.
5. Eye & Blood Sugar Supplements
Certain nutritional supplements, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, may benefit eye and vision health and blood sugar control. Some of these include:
- Vitamin C, an antioxidant, may benefit diabetic retinopathy and related diabetic macular edema, as well as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It may also lower blood pressure and improve narrowed arteries.
- Vitamin D, in higher blood concentrations, is linked with lower type 1 diabetes risk. Optimal levels may reduce diabetic retinopathy risk and severity, while lower levels are associated with retinal blood vessel damage. Vitamin D may also promote insulin release and sensitivity.
- Vitamin E, an antioxidant, may benefit diabetic retinopathy, by reducing retinal stress and blood pressure, while improving retinal blood flow.
- Zinc, an antioxidant, helps the retina produce melanin, a protective eye pigment. Deficiencies are associated with poor night vision and cataracts. Zinc supplementation may help with diabetes management and reduce risk factors.
- Lutein, a carotenoid (organic pigment), may filter light, protecting tissues from sunlight damage. It’s also thought that lutein may improve or even prevent AMD and cataracts.
- Zeaxanthin, a carotenoid and antioxidant, may help reduce eye and vision disease risks, including those for AMD, glaucoma, and cataracts.
- Essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 fatty acids, promote proper visual development and retinal function. They may also help control both weight and blood sugar, and reduce heart disease risks.
Diabetic retinopathy, while serious, can be properly managed, slowing or preventing vision loss. If you live in Long Island or Queens, NY, contact the diabetic eye specialists of Vitreoretinal Consultants of NY for a comprehensive eye exam.