Eye Care: 6 Steps to Prevent Eye Problems
Protect your eyesight with these eye care tips:
1. Manage your blood glucose.
One of the best things you can do for your eyes is to keep your blood sugar at near-normal levels. Consistent blood sugar control can slow the damage to the tiny blood vessels in your eyes, and help prevent or delay the start of eye problems associated with diabetes. Two to four times a year, have an A1c blood test, which measures your glucose levels for the past two to three months and allows doctors to make decisions about your treatment. Aim for a test result of less than 7%, the goal for most people with diabetes.
2. Manage your blood pressure.
Blood pressure control can help slow or prevent eye disease caused by diabetes. Protect your eyesight by keeping your blood pressure under control, and have your blood pressure checked by your doctor at every visit. If a low-salt diet, staying at a healthy weight, and exercise aren't enough to keep your blood pressure under control, you may need medication to bring your blood pressure down to a healthier level. The goal for most people with diabetes should be a blood pressure of less than 130/80.
3. Watch for warning signs.
The sooner you notice an eye problem, the more likely treatment will help maintain your vision. Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
- Blurry, cloudy, or double vision
- Flashing lights or rings around lights
- Blank spots, dark spots, or floating spots in your vision
- Pain, pressure, or persistent redness in your eyes
- Trouble seeing signs or straight lines
- Trouble seeing out of the corner of your eyes
- Any sudden change in your vision
4. Have yearly "dilated" eye exams.
Only when your pupils are dilated with special eye drops can an optometrist or ophthalmologist evaluate your eyes for early signs of damage to tiny blood vessels in your eyes. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are key to maintaining your vision.
Women with diabetes who are planning a pregnancy or are pregnant should have an eye exam in the earliest parts of pregnancy and stay in touch with their eye doctor throughout the pregnancy.
5. Quit smoking.
Smoking damages your blood vessels and increases your risk of eye problems -- a risk that's already higher for people with diabetes. If you smoke, get help from your doctor, a support group, or a smoking cessation program so you have professional support to help you quit -- and stay quit. The American Cancer Society and other qualified groups sponsor 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a web site and phone service offering free advice and support on how to quit.
6. Take heart: diabetes care and eye care work together.
The same steps you take for your overall diabetes management also reduce your risk of eye problems. Your positive efforts and hard work to follow your diabetes meal plan, get enough exercise, and take any diabetes medications correctly all contribute to healthy blood sugar levels -- and that gives you the best possible chance of protecting your eyesight.