Tips for avoiding diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the possible long-term complications to consider when you are diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy can be avoided. These tips can help you reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, or slowing the progression.

  • Have your eyes examined - If you are diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes you should have your eyes examined at least annually. An annual visit to an ophthalmologist is essential to helping detect early retinal damage. Retinal damage can be treated easily with laser therapy if detected early. For those with Type II Diabetes, you should have an eye exam as quickly after you receive a diagnosis as possible and it should be repeated annually.
  • Control Blood Sugar - Diabetic retinopathy can be avoided by closely monitoring blood sugar levels. Follow any advice given by your doctor. Your diabetes is going to require aggressive management and you must follow your physician's advice. A hemoglobin test every three to six months can help evaluate how well under control your blood sugar levels are. Every ten percent reduction in your HbA1c levels (hemoglobin) can reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by more than thirty percent.
  • Maintain normal blood pressure - Whether you are diabetic or not, it is important to keep your blood pressure normal. If you are a diabetic, blood pressure is even more important. Increased blood pressure can result in the onset or progression of diabetic retinopathy. Keeping your blood pressure at or below 130/80 can help prevent possible long-term complications associated with diabetic retinopathy.
  • Quit Smoking - Many studies (though there are conflicting studies) show that cigarette smoking increases the risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. This is believed to be because of the tendency of those who smoke to have higher blood pressure levels. Whether there is a direct link to diabetic retinopathy has not been fully established. However, quitting smoking does often help with lower blood pressure levels.
  • Controlling Cholesterol - Conflicting studies show that high cholesterol may be associated with the risks of diabetic retinopathy. Lower cholesterol levels are sensible for all of us, but for those who are diabetic it could be even more important. Maintaining low cholesterol levels can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Some studies have indicated that lowering your cholesterol may also lower your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. 
Warning signs

Diabetic retinopathy is not generally symptomatic. There are changes that may occur in your eyes that should be considered warning signs including loss of vision in one eye, blurry vision, reading problems, double vision, pain in the eye, feeling of pressure behind the eye or other changes that you are concerned about.

Diabetic Retinopathy does not have to be one of the consequences of your diabetes. Taking care of your blood sugar, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels can help reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.