Protecting Your Vision
Did you know that your clear view of the world, the one that allows you to read, drive and recognize faces, relies on the health of your retinas? Protecting your vision from preventable retinal disease is important. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss among older Americans, affecting more than 11 million people. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of irreversible blindness in working-age Americans, affecting nearly 8 million people.
Here are some ways you can protect yourself from Macular Degeneration:
- Pay attention to visual changes and visit an eye physician right away if you experience symptoms such as blurry or distorted vision, if straight lines appear wavy, or you see dark spots, flashes of light or floaters.
- Quit smoking. Smoking is the most important modifiable risk factor for macular degeneration
- Control your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. People who are generally in good health are at lower risk for macular degeneration
- Have a healthy diet. Research shows that a diet with Omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, and zeaxanthin can decrease your risk for macular degeneration. Dark green and leafy vegetables are a good source of these nutrients
- Stay active and maintain a healthy weight. Studies show that people who exercise are less likely to develop macular degeneration. Exercise helps to control obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar.
- Know your family history. Individuals with a family history of macular degeneration are at increased risk to develop macular degeneration. In the future we may be able to test for specific genes which carry an increased risk of macular degeneration.
- Protect your eyes from the sun. Exposure to ultraviolet light can damage your eyes causing cataracts, skin cancer, as well as increasing the risk of macular degeneration. While outdoors in direct sunlight, protect yourself with sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB. Wear a hat while outdoors.
- Get a regular dilated eye exam. Many retinal diseases have no symptoms in the early stages. Your optometrist, ophthalmologist, or retina specialist can detect retinal disease at an early stage when treatment can be more effective.
Here are some facts about Diabetic Retinopathy:
- Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the retina
- Anyone who has diabetes is at risk for the development of diabetic retinopathy
- You may have diabetic retinopathy without noticing any symptoms
- There are two types of diabetes and two types of diabetic retinopathy:
- Type I diabetics are more likely to develop proliferative retinopathy (new blood vessels which may cause bleeding
- Type II diabetics are more likely to develop macular edema or swelling of the retina which causes blurred vision
Additional factors which can increase the risk of retinopathy are:
- Duration of diabetes. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop diabetic retinopathy
- Your age. The older you are, the more likely your to develop diabetic retinopathy, especially with diabetes Type II
- Poor diabetic control. Having a high Hemoglobin A1c increases your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy
- Hypertension and kidney disease increases your risk of diabetic retinopathy
- Pregnancy. Pregnancy increases both the risk and severity of diabetic retinopathy
Early warning signs of diabetic retinopathy are:
- Blurred or distorted vision, difficulty reading or driving
- New onset of floaters or cobwebs
How to decrease your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy
- Don’t smoke. Smoking increases both risk and the severity of diabetic retinopathy
- Control your blood sugar. Studies show that better control of your diabetes decreases the risk and severity of diabetic retinopathy
- Maintain a healthy weight. Weight control makes it easier to control your diabetes
- Exercise. Exercise helps lower your blood sugar
- Take your medications correctly.
- Have a regular eye exam by your optometrist, ophthalmologist or retina specialist