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Top 5 Ways to Lower Your Risk for Diabetic Retinopathy

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Updated August 12, 2007

Diabetic eye disease is the third leading cause of blindness in the United States and the leading cause of new blindness in people younger than 65 years of age. One of the more severe diabetic eye related complications is diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a disease of the retina that is caused by changes to the small blood vessels of the retina. If you have diabetes, you can significantly reduce your risk for developing diabetic retinopathy by following a few tips.

1. Keep Blood Sugar Within Healthy Limits

Tight control of blood sugar delays the onset and progression of diabetic retinopathy. High levels of sugar in your blood stream causes changes in your blood chemistry. This change directly affects the structure and function of your blood vessels. To maintain healthy vision, it is critically important that you monitor your blood sugar on a daily basis.

2. Monitor Blood Pressure

Controlling blood pressure is not only good for your whole body, it can decrease your chance of developing severe diabetic retinopathy. In diabetic retinopathy, the small blood vessels in the retina leak blood and fluid. This causes the retina to swell. Having high blood pressure encourages fluid to leak out, leading to diabetic retinopathy.

3. Maintain a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet keeps blood sugar fluctuations to a minimum. Spreading the consumption of carbohydrates throughout the day helps to stabilize blood sugar. Also, a healthy diet will keep your cholesterol lower. Research shows that patients with lower cholesterol tend to have less severe vision loss. Dieticians usually recommend keeping your plate as colorful as possible, while also including high fiber foods.

4. Exercise Regularly

Exercise forces your body to expend extra energy, which causes excess sugar to be removed from your blood. As a result, blood sugar levels are reduced. Exercise also helps keep your body weight down. Obese individuals are at a much high risk of uncontrolled diabetes and thus, more severe diabetic retinopathy.

5. Have an annual eye examination

Optometrists and ophthalmologists recommend having an annual eye examination with pupil dilation. Examinations will not prevent diabetic retinopathy, but it is vital to diagnose early signs of retinopathy so that it may be monitored appropriately and treated. Follow the recommended schedule. Your doctor may suggest an exam every three to six months if he feels that diabetic retinopathy may present itself. Call your doctor if you notice any vision changes. Early detection and treatment can help prevent vision loss.
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