If you have diabetes, reduce your risk of getting diabetic retinopathy by doing the following:

  • Make a commitment to managing your diabetes. Make healthy eating and physical activity part of your daily routine. Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, such as walking, each week. Take oral diabetes medications or insulin as directed.
  • Monitor your blood sugar level. You may need to check and record your blood sugar level several times a day — more-frequent measurements may be required if you're ill or under stress. Careful monitoring is the only way to make sure that your blood sugar level remains within your target range. Ask your doctor how often you need to test your blood sugar.
  • Ask your doctor about a glycosylated hemoglobin test. The glycosylated hemoglobin test, or hemoglobin A1C test, reflects your average blood sugar level for the two- to three-month period before the test. For most people, the A1C goal is to be under 7 percent. If you've been meeting your blood sugar goals, your doctor will likely perform this test twice a year. But, if your A1C is higher than your goal, more frequent testing is recommended. Remember, keeping your blood sugar level as close to normal as possible slows the progression of diabetic retinopathy and reduces the need for surgery.
  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. High blood pressure and high cholesterol increase the risk of vision loss. Eating healthy foods, exercising regularly and losing excess weight can help. Sometimes medication is needed, too.
  • If you smoke or use other types of tobacco, ask your doctor to help you quit. Smoking increases your risk of various diabetes complications, including diabetic retinopathy. Talk to your doctor about ways to stop smoking or to stop using other types of tobacco.
  • Pay attention to vision changes. Yearly dilated eye exams are an important part of your diabetes treatment plan. Contact your eye doctor right away if you experience sudden vision changes or your vision becomes blurry, spotty or hazy.

Remember, diabetes doesn't necessarily lead to poor vision. Taking an active role in diabetes management can go a long way toward preventing complications.

Mar. 27, 2012