The Health Advocate

by Hannah Whittenly, The Health Advocate

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Diabetes can be troublesome, but some people do not understand all the damage it can cause. One thing that is often overlooked is eye care. Diabetic eye diseases such as glaucoma and retinopathy can occur without proper eye care.

The Complications

High blood glucose levels do not normally cause eye damage. If your levels are too high for a prolonged period, tissue swelling can damage blood vessels in the eye. Retinopathy occurs when these vessels leak or bulge into the retina. Macular edema occurs when the macula becomes swollen and can lead to blindness. Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve is damaged and can also lead to blindness.

Diabetic ABCs

Prevention is the key to proper eye care when you have diabetes. Work with your medical staff to monitor and control your blood glucose levels with A1C testing. Additionally blood pressure and cholesterol levels should be managed. While it may be possible to limit doctor visits to once or twice a year, if you have fluctuating glucose levels, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, you may need more regular appointments. If you are taking medications, you will likely undergo more frequent testing as well.


The most important aspect of diabetic eye care is the eye exam. Generally, doctors recommend yearly eye exams. Your pupils will be dilated so the doctor can see into the back of your eye. Vision will also be tested. The pressure levels of your eyes will be measured to determine if swelling is present. If you have developed a diabetic eye disease, you may need an exam more than one time a year. An advanced eye disease may require surgery, so you may need to see an eye surgeon as well.

Dietary Changes

You have likely already made some nutritional changes to keep your blood glucose levels under control. You can also make a few more changes to aid in your eye care efforts. Foods that are packed with nutrients but also lower in fat. Avoid sweets, junk food, and anything with a high glycemic index. You should choose foods that contain slow-release carbs. You will be able to control glucose levels while also working to give extra protection to your eyes.

Caring for yourself is vital with diabetes. You must adjust your entire lifestyle from what you eat to your activity level. Eye care is equally important. Regular eye exams can catch problems early, before permanent damage occurs.

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