Diabetic retinopathy is a serious eye disease caused by diabetes. It has a prevalence of 1 in 29 people in the US. Studies have found that nearly 4.1 million individuals aged 40 and above were living with DR in 2004. The figures were estimated to rise substantially by 2020. There was a fast progression of this condition in the case of SARS-CoV-2 infections as well. The viral RNA of the virus was found in the postmortem retinal biopsies of affected patients. A case report of a 49-year-old African American male presented with blurry eyesight following corona contraction and hospitalization.
Pandemic-related restrictions led to a 30% to 100% reduction of intravitreal injections for DR globally with a decrease in visual acuity. It is crucial to actively address the condition since untreated diabetic retinopathy can damage the retina by preventing the growth of new blood vessels. Globally, 3.9 million individuals suffer from distance vision impairment or blindness due to diabetic retinopathy. So, it is a good idea to learn a few strategies and healthy habits that can help reduce the odds of this retinal disorder.
1. Reduce Smoking
Nearly 12.5% of the American population smokes as of 2020. It triples or quadruples the progression of diabetic retinopathy complications. It raises the chances of the condition and damages the blood vessels of the retina leading to blindness. The iris or the colored part of the eye may be impaired too. There is also a strong link between blood pressure, cataract and diabetes- all three of which may lead to glaucoma. So, since cigarette smoking is a potential risk factor, consult your doctor to help you quit the usage of tobacco in all forms.
2. Monitor Blood Sugar
A blood sugar level below 140mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L) is normal. Healthcare providers suggest checking it at least 4 to 10 times a day if you have type 1 diabetes. This is vital since having too much sugar in the blood can damage the retina. It happens since the high glucose levels weaken and damage small blood vessels inside the retina. This further leads to hemorrhages that swells the nerve tissues which starve oxygen causing abnormal vessel growth and temporary or permanent vision changes.
3. Manage Diabetes
A total of 463 million people is estimated to be living with diabetes in 2019 and the number is expected to increase to 578 million in 2030 and 700 million in 2045. So, it is extremely important to manage this condition to lower the risks of diabetic retinopathy. Consider:
- Eating nutritious meals including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, non-fat dairy and proteins on a daily basis.
- Exercises like walking, aerobic dance, cycling, resistance band exercises, team sports, swimming and weightlifting.
- Sleeping for at least 7 hours per night regularly.
Cope well by taking your prescribed medicines regularly. Try to increase your activity levels with time to see better health and diabetes management. Brush and floss your mouth, teeth and gums daily to keep them in a good condition.
4. Dilated Eye Exam
A comprehensive eye check-up is recommended each year. This is crucial even if you have been checking your blood sugar at home. A dilated test is a good way to diagnose diabetic retinopathy. The ophthalmologist will place a few drops to widen the pupils to be able to see inside the eyes easily and inspect the damage caused by retinopathy. Further, two diagnostic tests, Fluorescein Angiography and Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) can be recommended to check the fine details. The doctor will also check your weight and blood circulation in your hands and feet.
5. Control your Cholesterol
Elevated serum cholesterol and lipid levels have a vital role in diabetic retinopathy. A study found an average baseline cholesterol level of 244 in those who had a vision drop to 5/200 or worse compared to 228 in those who did not develop such loss. In fact, diabetics with macular edema are known to have higher levels of low-density lipoproteins and serum triglycerides. Statins or HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors are a common treatment that can lower the development of diabetic retinopathy.
Putting these tips into action can go a long way toward preventing vision complications due to diabetic retinopathy. You must also stay in close contact with a top-rated ophthalmologist to protect and preserve your eyes in a healthy manner.