Did you know that diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease you may develop if you have diabetes, is the leading cause of blindness in Americans ages 20 to 74? Or that the number of people with this serious eye disease that damages the blood vessels inside the retina, will rise from nearly 8 million today to 11 million in 2030?
If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes you’re at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy and other serious eye diseases like glaucoma or cataracts, in addition to potentially damaging your heart, kidneys, blood vessels and feet.
There is no cure for diabetes. But careful monitoring and control can help you avoid unnecessary vision loss and other health problems associated with the disease.
The National Eye Institute (NEI) offers a guide so you can “Stay on TRACK to Prevent Blindness from Diabetes.” If you have diabetes, it’s important to keep your health on TRACK:
- Take your oral medications and/or insulin every day at the right time, as prescribed by your doctor.
- Reach and maintain a healthy weight. Set realistic weight goals, and reach them through exercise, by choosing the right foods and by reducing food portion sizes. Here’s an example of a simple yet achievable goal from the American Diabetes Association: Four days each week, I will eat an apple instead of ice cream as my evening snack.
- Add physical activity to your day. Do something you enjoy for at least 30 minutes each day, like walking, riding a bike, swimming or dancing.
- Control your ABC’s—A1C, Blood pressure and Cholesterol levels. Although you will set your personal goals with your doctor, the blood glucose level A1C test goal for most people is below 7. The recommended blood pressure goal is usually below 140/90.
- Kick the smoking habit. If you smoke you’re more likely to have trouble with insulin dosing and controlling your disease.
In their early stages, many vision-threatening eye diseases have no symptoms. If you have diabetes, we recommend you have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.
If you have diabetes and vision loss, Lighthouse Guild’s specialized ADA-certified program team of diabetes educators, nutritionists, endocrinologist and nurse practitioner can help you manage the disease. Call 212-769-6313.