Diabetic retinopathy - care
Diabetes can harm your eyes. It can damage the small blood vessels in your retina, which is the back part of your eye. This condition is called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes also increases your risk of having glaucoma, cataracts, and other eye problems.
If you have diabetes, work with your health care provider to take good care of your eyes.
If you have diabetes, you may not know there is any damage to your eyes until the problem is very bad. Your provider can catch problems early if you get regular eye exams.
If your provider finds eye problems early, medicines and other treatments may help prevent them from getting worse.
Every year, you should have an eye exam by an eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist). Choose an eye doctor who takes care of people with diabetes.
Your eye exam may include:
Your eye doctor may ask you to come more or less often than once a year depending on the eye exam results and how well your blood sugar is controlled.
Control your blood sugar levels. High blood sugar increases your chance of having eye problems.
High blood sugar can also cause blurred vision that is not related to diabetic retinopathy. This kind of blurred vision is caused by having too much sugar and water in the lens of the eye, which is in front of the retina.
Control your cholesterol levels:
DO NOT smoke. If you need help quitting, ask your provider.
If you already have eye problems, ask your provider if you should avoid exercises that can strain the blood vessels in your eyes. Exercises that may make eye problems worse include:
If your vision is affected by diabetes, make sure your home is safe enough that your chance of falling is low. Ask your provider about having a home assessment done. For people with diabetes, the combination of poor vision and nerve problems in the legs and feet can affect balance. This increases the chance of falling.
If you cannot read the labels on your medicines easily:
Never guess when taking your medicines. If you are unsure of your doses, talk with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.
Keep medicines and other household items organized in a cabinet so you know where they are.
To make foods that are on your diabetes meal plan:
Call your provider if you have any of the following:
American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Preferred practice pattern guidelines. Diabetic retinopathy. www.aao.org/preferred-practice-pattern/diabetic-retinopathy-ppp-updated-2017. Accessed July 8, 2018.
American Diabetes Association. 10. Microvascular complications and foot care: standards of medical care in diabetes-2018. Diabetes Care. 2018;41(Suppl1):S105-S118. PMID: 29222381 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29222381.
Bowling B. Retinal vascular disease. In: Bowling B, ed. Kanski's Clinical Ophthalmology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap13.
Cagliero E. Diabetes and long-term complications. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 51.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 5/17/2018
Reviewed By: Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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