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Diabetic Retinopathy Self-Care

As patients or relatives and friends of diabetics, we can do the following to help improve the chances against loss of vision due to diabetic retinopathy:

1. Tight coantrol of blood sugar levels slows down the onset and progression of diabetic retinopathy and lessens the need for surgery. Tight control means keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. Ideally, this translates to levels between 90 and 130 mg/dL before meals and less than 180 mg/dL two hours after starting a meal; with a Hemoglobin A1C level less than 6%. It is best to seek advice from the Endocrinologist and diabetes educator on how to effectively and safely manage blood sugar levels. The benefits of controlling the blood sugar level might not be realized immediately and we should remember that tight control of blood sugar level lowers but does not eliminate the risk for developing diabetic retinopathy.

2. Keeping a close watch on sudden changes in vision apart from undergoing regular eye examinations helps in the early detection of onset or worsening of diabetic retinopathy. Patients should see their eye doctor promptly should they experience sudden vision changes like blurring, seeing spots or fuzziness, that last for a few days and are not associated with changes in blood sugar levels.

3. Tight control of blood pressure with medications and a healthy lifestyle helps slow down the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

4. Control blood cholesterol levels with medications and a healthy lifestyle. Total blood cholesterol levels above 240 mg/dL significantly increases the risk of vision loss.

5.Control stress as it can cause swings in blood sugar levels among diabetics. Patients who are too preoccupied might find it difficult to control their blood sugar levels because they miss taking their medications as prescribed by their doctors, don’t eat the proper diet or don’t have time to exercise. The hormones released when under stress can likewise directly affect blood sugar levels. The patients should not hesitate to seek help from therapists, counselors or support groups. Meditation can also help relax the patients both in body and in mind.

6. Quit smoking. Smoking can promote closure of the blood vessels adding to the detrimental effects of high blood sugar levels on the blood vessels among diabetics.

The specter of losing one’s sight can really be frightening. But the early detection and treatment of diabetic retinopathy can significantly reduce the chances of going blind from the disease. The patient can do something about diabetes and its complications and it starts with knowing what it is and what it brings about.

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