As we get older, our risk of developing an age-related eye condition significantly increases. In fact at least 1 in 3 Americans over the age of 65 have some form of an eye condition. The five most common conditions are cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, dry eye, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
We have all heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” It is easy for us to believe that eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables is better than a diet of french-fries and potato chips. Most of us also believe that getting some exercise is better for our body than spending the afternoon on the couch watching football...unless the Chiefs are playing! This week’s blog will focus on some of the things we can do to help our eyes maintain as good of vision as possible as we age.
Not smoking is probably the #1 lifestyle decision we can make for our eyes and our bodies as a whole. Smoking leads to earlier development of cataracts. Those who smoke are twice as likely to suffer from dry eye symptoms. There is a 3x risk of developing macular degeneration in smokers versus nonsmokers. If we break this down to women who smoke versus women who do not smoke, the risk of developing macular degeneration is 5.5x higher in those who smoke. Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of vision loss. The incidence of diabetes is 30-40% higher in those who smoke. Those who smoke are 4x more likely to go blind in old age. It is never too late to quit! The following link from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides resources for those interested in breaking the habit. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/index.html
Treatment for diabetic retinopathy is dependent on what stage of disease you have, your level of vision and the doctor’s clinical decision.
For mild nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy, the treatment is good control of your blood sugar and blood pressure. Control your blood sugar by watching your diet and taking the medication prescribed by your doctor. Controlling you blood pressure helps keep the eye’s blood vessels healthy.
Diabetic retinopathy results from damage to the blood vessels within the retina, the tissue that lines the back of the eye. The retina is where the light rays that enter the eye are focused. This information is transported via the optic nerve to the back of the brain where it is processed into the pictures we see. With diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels within the retina leak fluid and bleed. This can affect a person’s ability to see clearly.
November is American Diabetes Month and Diabetic Eye Disease Month. This is a perfect time to discuss how diabetes can affect the eyes.
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among working-age Americans. It is the result of damage to the retina, the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. Early detection, proper management of your diabetes and annual dilated eye exams can protect against vision loss.