Diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss in working age adults. Our society is experiencing an epidemic of individuals developing problems with their blood sugar. In fact a recent UCLA demographic study has shown that 46% of the adults in California are either prediabetic or diabetic. The leading cause of sight loss from diabetes is what is called diabetic retinopathy. Problems from retinopathy is not only limited to those with diabetes. In fact 8% of those with prediabetes have detectable retinopathy. To complicate matters most people with diabetes are unaware when they are starting to have problems with their eyes. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 70% of those with prediabetes will become diabetic.
With all that ominous news it would be helpful to offer some advice on how you and your family can steer clear of some of the problems associated with diabetes. What about diet? Studies have shown that those on a vegan diet were the least likely to develop diabetes followed by ovo-lacto vegetarians. Simply exchanging vegetables for high carbohydrate foods reduces the stress on your pancreas. We know that processed meats are particularly bad as it has been shown the sodium nitrate often used in preserved lunch meats is toxic to the pancreas and can lead to diabetes. Drinking coffee has beneficial effects on your blood sugar, but don’t over do it due to the caffeine.
There are people with specialized knowledge in nutrition that give detailed advice on how to eat properly to avoid or control diabetes. Seeking their advice is valuable.
There are other simple lifestyle habits you can choose that will lower your chances of getting diabetes. Walking 30-60 minutes per day can lower your blood sugar and improve your health in many ways. Sleep between 6-9 hours per day has been associated with optimal health and reduced diabetes risk. Don’t smoke, and make sure that you avoid poor air quality. Have your vitamin D levels tested. If you are deficient it’s important to raise your levels to normal range. Also by keeping your home on the cool side it increases your metabolism and helps lower your blood sugar levels.
In our office we have invested in some leading technologies to detect the first signs of diabetes in the eye. Damage to the eye from diabetes usually shows up two key ways. Small capillaries in the eye are damaged and the small light receiving cells in the eye show reduced function. We are able to detect these issues before we can see them with traditional instruments such as retinal photos or dilated eye exams. The name of these two new technologies are optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) and, full field electroretinography (FFERG). Both of these technologies are non- invasive and take only a few minutes to perform. We are able to see the results immediately. The benefits of having these tests is to detect if your prediabetic or diabetic conditions are harming your body. We can then determine the effect your blood sugar has directly on your body and measure it. We are thus able to help you determine with the help of your medical doctor with your own efforts and know what blood sugar levels are safe for you. We currently offer a supplement in our office called Diabetic Vision Support. This product has been shown through clinical studies to decrease retinopathy separate from your blood sugar levels.
Through more conventional testing that includes dilated eye examination and wide-field retina photos, we are able to determine which patients are in need of more intensive treatment by a retina specialist. There are proven signs when a person is near losing their sight. When detected, treatment though either medication injected into the eye or laser treatment to the retina can preserve sight.
It is important that people, as adults, have an annual eye exam to detect problems with their eyes before sight loss and symptoms occur. We are now fully equipped in our practice to preserve your sight and help you in dealing with the effects of diabetes.