Managing Diabetes: Dealing with Diabetic Retinopathy

When you’re diagnosed with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, your body will immediately experience a cocktail of confusing and potentially debilitating symptoms. Managing these alone can be a strain and leave you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. 

However, even early on in your diagnosis and treatment, your doctor may advise you to get an eye exam. Diabetes can affect your eyes since it puts you at risk of developing conditions like glaucoma and cataracts. You are also at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic Retinopathy

This condition is the result of damaged blood vessels in the retina. The progress of this condition is relatively slow and the symptoms are initially so mild that many patients may ignore their symptoms too long. However, as the level of damage to the blood vessels increases, you may begin losing your vision. Luckily, you can prevent the progress of this condition or at least manage it better with regular eye exams, a sound treatment plan and adopting a few lifestyle changes.

Know Your Symptoms

Initially, you may not experience any symptoms at all or experience very mild symptoms. Diabetic retinopathy worsens over time leading to partial and then full blindness. You should be on the lookout for symptoms like blurry vision, difficulty focusing, altered color vision or partial vision loss. You should also pay attention to your field of vision. 

Focus your eyes on a central spot and be aware of the objects you can see on the side (periphery) of the area you can see. This is your visual field. If you notice floaters, dots and dark strings moving in your visual field or if there are dark or empty spots in it, it’s a sign that you should visit a doctor right away. Diabetic retinopathy affects both eyes at once, so issues with only one eye might be another condition.

How To Prevent Or Manage Diabetic Retinopathy

Regular Eye Exams: Regular eye exams have to be a part of your treatment plan for managing either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. This is the only way to catch the condition in its early stage and formulate a treatment plan.

Manage Your Glucose Levels: High levels of glucose in the body specifically affects the eyes by damaging the vessels that supply blood to your retina. Over time, this damage prevents an easy flow of blood to the retina causing blindness. Work with your doctor and come up with a solid plan to manage your glucose.

Know What Puts You At A Higher Risk: Anyone who suffers from Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes is indeed at risk of developing this condition. However, being pregnant, having other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and high cholesterol or being a smoker makes you especially vulnerable to the disease. Studies show that having African-American or Hispanic heritage also puts you at a higher risk. If you belong to any of these groups, you have to be extra vigilant about your eye health when you get a diabetes diagnosis.