Eye disease is a major risk for people living with diabetes. We round up all the facts you need to keep bright-eyed and bushy tailed.
- Of the eye complications associated with diabetes, diabetic retinopathy is the most common, but cataracts and glaucoma are also possibly serious consequences of poorly controlled diabetes.
- Diabetic retinopathy is a condition affecting the retina (the light-sensitive area at the back of the eye) and is caused by damage to the blood vessels. People with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes need to be on the look-out, and the longer a person has been living with diabetes, the greater the risk.
- Leaking or irregular blood vessels and swelling of the retina are early symptoms of diabetic retinopathy. A thorough eye exam at least once a year with an eye specialist will identify any warning signs early.
- A typical eye exam is painless and usually involves viewing a chart to check your eyesight at a distance, testing the pressure inside the eye, and having drops placed in your eyes to widen the pupils and inspect the interior of the eye.
- Glaucoma is caused by the excessive pressure of fluid inside the eye and leads to optic nerve damage. Diabetes makes you twice as likely to develop glaucoma.
- Extra caution and additional eye exams are necessary for pregnant woman with diabetes.
- If you experience any changes in your vision, contact your doctor immediately.
- Some symptoms to be on the alert for are: bad vision in dim lighting, blind spots, double vision or floating spots, blurry vision, pain in the eyes or headaches, and poor peripheral vision.
- Eye disease can often progress without any symptoms, so be sure to keep appointments with your eye care specialist and prevent complications by managing your blood sugar and blood pressure levels carefully.
- Have your blood pressure checked at least twice a year – a blood pressure of under 130/80 is safest for people with diabetes.
Why high blood pressure is a big risk for those with diabetes:
- Blood pressure is the pressure against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood through them.
- Blood pressure is measured in two ways: Systolic pressure is the blood pressure when the heart is beating or contracting. Diastolic pressure is the blood pressure between beats when the heart is at rest. The systolic reading is usually written before the diastolic, and is measured in something called millimeters of mercury, for example 120/80mm Hg.
- People with diabetes are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure: 3 in 10 people with Type 1 diabetes and 8 in 10 people with Type 2 diabetes develop high blood pressure at some stage.
- The risk is increased if you are overweight, eat a lot of salt, don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables, don’t exercise a lot, or drink alcohol excessively. You’re also at greater risk if you have a family history of high blood pressure.
- Healthy lifestyle changes are essential in treating high blood pressure, but medication is often necessary if you have diabetes and your blood pressure remains at 140/80mm Hg or higher.
- If blood pressure remains high over an extended period of time, it can damage the organs of the body, causing heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease.
- Diabetic related conditions like retinopathy (damage to the back of eye) and nephropathy (damage to the kidneys) are more likely in people who have both diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Generally, a blood pressure reading of 140/80 mm Hg or higher is considered high for anyone with diabetes.
- Blood pressure is higher when you’re anxious, stressed or have just been exercising.
- High blood pressure itself has no known symptoms, so can go undetected unless checked regularly. A single test can’t diagnose high blood pressure – you have to have a series of tests (when relaxed) for a real diagnosis. Get tested today!