November 14 is World Diabetes Day.
Diabetic retinopathy is caused due to uncontrolled and long-term high blood glucose levels in the body that damage a person’s retina, leading to vision problems. With the rising cases of diabetes, there has been an increase in the number of people suffering from diabetic retinopathy. Our expert Dr Vandana Jain, Eye Specialist and Director of the Advanced Eye Hospital (AEHI), Sanpada says, ‘Diabetes is a disease where the sugar levels in the body remain greater than normal, damaging a number of organs including the eyes. It puts one at a greater risk of developing various eye diseases like cataract (clouding of the natural lens of the eye), glaucoma (raised eye pressure) and diabetic retinopathy (damage to the retina of the eye), retinal oedema (swelling of the retina) or detachment of the retina and in rare cases, permanent blindness.’
The key to prevent further worsening of exsisting eye conditions and various eye-related complications caused due to diabetes lies in the proper management of one’s blood sugar levels. Here are few tips from Dr Vandana Jain to prevent diabetes and its allied eye problems.
Get regular eye check-ups: Most people suffering from diabetes check their blood sugar levels regularly and may even get kidney and heart tests done at least once in a year, but they somehow forget about eye-check-ups. If you suffer from blurry or fluctuating vision, see spots or strings floating, shadows or dark areas in your vision or have difficulty perceiving colours, you need to get your eyes checked. It is very important to visit a doctor as soon as you notice any of these symptoms to prevent permanent damage to your eyes.
Keep a tab on your blood sugar levels: Keep a strict check over your diabetes. Regular exercises, healthy diet and active lifestyle are some of the key measures to control your blood sugar. By doing so, you protect yourself from a wide range of health complications other than vision problems such as heart disease, kidney ailments and foot problems (like diabetic foot).
Get an HbA1C test done: Dr Vandana says, ‘HbA1C test helps you to know your average blood sugar levels over a period of three months, thereby helping you understand if you have managed your blood sugar levels optimally. People with diabetes should aim to keep their HbA1C below 7% to prevent diabetes-associated health complications.’
Maintain your blood pressure levels: People suffering from diabetes are advised to maintain their blood pressure levels within the normal range (140/80 mm Hg). This is because, high blood pressure coupled with high blood sugar puts a person at an increased risk of various health complications.
Quit Smoking: It is a well-known fact that smoking is not good for your overall well-being, as it puts you at an increased susceptibility to various diseases. And if you have diabetes, then the risk of severe clinical conditions like heart attack, respiratory problems, etc. are very high. Hence, it is always a better idea to quit smoking and increase your life expectancy.
Lose weight: According to Dr Vandana, people who are overweight and obese are undeniably at an increased risk of diabetes as compared to those with their weight under control. Hence, it is advised that diabetics should exercise and eat healthy to lose weight and maintain it. In this way, the various health complications associated with obesity including diabetes and heart disease can be prevented.
Maintain optimum cholesterol levels: Apart from maintaining your blood sugar and blood pressure levels within control, people who are at an increased risk of diabetes should control their blood cholesterol levels as well. This can be achieved by replacing a high-fat and carbohydrate-rich diet with a high-protein, nutrient-dense one instead. A good way to help you eat healthy is to include fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet.