Healthy vision especially important to those with diabetes

April 28, 2011

When was the last time you had an eye exam? If you’re currently living with diabetes, you should be able to answer that question with no problem.

According to the American Diabetes Association, individuals diagnosed with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam each year.

“It’s not enough just to go into the doctor to have your prescription verified by an optician. People with diabetes need to have their eyes dilated by an ophthalmologist or optometrist to detect any signs of retinopathy,” says Nelda Caceres, RN, CDE, of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Coastal Bend Health Education Center Diabetes Education Program. “Diabetic retinopathy refers to retina disorders caused by diabetes and can lead to serious complications, including vision loss and retinal detachment.”

In addition to an annual dilated eye exam, there are a number of steps that people with diabetes can take to care for their eyes. Keeping blood sugars under control is of particular importance. One trial conducted by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases showed keeping blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible reduced the risk for developing retinopathy by 76 percent.

“Individuals should monitor their blood pressure, avoid smoking and seek the care of an ophthalmologist or optometrist as soon as they become aware of any changes to their vision,” Caceres says. “There are treatments available, but the No. 1 way to avoid complications is to be proactive in caring for your eyes.”

Other eye ailments also affect individuals with diabetes more disproportionately than their counterparts. Research indicates people with diabetes are 40 percent more likely to suffer from glaucoma and 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts.

— Marketing & Communications