As retinal specialists, we see the myriad of ways that chronic health conditions like diabetes can ravage eye health. We prefer not to see patients who have noticed the signs of diabetic retinopathy, not because we don’t want to help but because some degree of vision loss is often the first indicator that the retina has been damaged. Here, we discuss why it is so important to understand the nature of diabetic retinopathy and what to do to prevent or treat this condition.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetes is a general health condition in which there is too much glucose in the blood. In some cases, levels are consistently too high. In others, levels rise and fall dramatically. In either situation, the body suffers from too much glucose and dysregulated insulin use. The eyes suffer because they have tiny blood vessels and, when there is consistently too much glucose in the blood, these vessels get weak. Fluid and blood can leak from them, creating swelling and pressure at the back of the eye. The retina may sustain damage without so much as an ache or pain. This damage can result in blindness, so our objective is to detect the signs of diabetic retinopathy early, when we can provide treatment most efficiently.
Diabetic patients should see their ophthalmologist at least once every year. Exams may largely focus on observing the retina and blood vessels at the back of the eye. Screenings are painless and provide the extent of information the eye doctor needs to prescribe necessary care or lifestyle strategies. Two examples follow.
Stay Physically Active
Regular exercise is important for all people. However, this recommendation has a different tone for diabetics. You see, when we work out, the body requires additional fuel. That fuel is gained by the conversion of blood glucose into energy for muscle movement. To that end, exercise that involves some degree of muscle-toning is an excellent option for prolonging the conversion of blood glucose into fuel. When this conversion occurs, it is easier for the body to remain regulated.
Staying active is not a substitute for a poor diet. Like exercise, the diet recommendations for a diabetic patient have unique objectives. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t all about weight management. For the diabetic, it is crucial to have a sufficient amount of daily fiber in addition to lean meats, healthy fats, and appropriate starches. Fiber is important because it directly affects how quickly sugar gets absorbed. The slower the absorption, the more easily the body can maintain good blood sugar regulation.
The name of the game with diabetic retinopathy is to act preventatively and move quickly if signs of this condition are found during a comprehensive eye exam. VitreoRetinal Surgery, PLLC has several offices in Minnesota in which treatment for diabetic retinopathy is available. To schedule a consultation, call (800) VRS-2500 to locate an office near you.