Did you know? Diabetes is a worldwide pandemic that can cause various health conditions, including eyesight problems which can lead to severe loss of vision and blindness. In fact, it’s the leading cause of blindness in people aged 20 to 74! World Diabetes Month is the perfect opportunity to learn more about diabetes and related eye conditions.
What is diabetes and diabetic eye disease?
Diabetes is the outcome of long periods of increased blood glucose levels (also known as blood sugar levels). There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. We’ve got a list of great tips on how to deal with diabetes.
Conditions such as high blood pressure could be a possible result of untreated diabetes. “Health complications linked to untreated diabetes can harm important parts of the eyes and lead to diabetic eye disease, vision loss and blindness”, says Andre Horn, senior optometrist and managing director of Mellins i-Style.
How often should I have my eyes tested?
Optometrists generally recommend that people get their eyes tested every two years. However, in some circumstances, they may recommend more frequent eye tests, especially if you:
- have diabetes
- are a child wearing glasses
- are 40 years + and have a family history of glaucoma
- are 70 years +
Tips for preventing diabetic eye disease:
- Have regular eye exams. “Eye exams are an important part of health maintenance for everyone. Adults should have their eyes regularly tested to ensure that their prescriptions are current and to check for early signs of eye disease”, advises Horn. Optometrists are often the first healthcare professionals to detect chronic systemic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol.
- Keep your blood sugar levels under control. The American Diabetes Association has recently reported that those who kept their glucose levels in check were four times less likely to develop diabetic retinopathy than those who only followed their standard diabetes treatment.
Maintain healthy blood pressure levels with these guidelines:
- Keep an eye on your waistline. Waist measurement is one of the best ways to avoid high blood pressure and to manage a healthy weight. While it is recommended that men keep to 102 cm or less, it is important for women to keep to 89 cm or less.
- Regular exercise. At least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity three to five days a week can lower blood pressure by 4 to 9 mm Hg. Why not try running? Get started with our beginner’s guide to running.
- Keep to a healthy balanced diet. A diet that’s rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and limited saturated fat can work wonders for your blood pressure. Try following these healthy-eating guidelines.
- Cut back on sodium. Eating slightly less than half a teaspoon of table salt or 2 300 mg sodium every day, can significantly reduce blood pressure by 2 to 8 mm Hg.
- Limit alcohol intake. As a general rule of thumb, stick to one or two moderate drinks a day, but the less alcohol you consume, the less your chances will be to experience high blood pressure.
- Turn on the breaks with caffeine. Caffeinated beverages can cause varying increases in blood pressure, but its effect, whether it’s temporary or longer lasting, depends from person to person.
- Quit smoking. Many smokers are unaware of the link between tobacco smoking and blindness. Cataracts are a leading cause of blindness and smokers are two to three times more likely to develop cataracts than non-smokers. For many smokers, this habit is one of the toughest habits to shake, but continuing to try and quit is one step closer to prevention of serious eye problems.
For more tips and advice on healthy vision visit mellins.co.za.