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If you have diabetes, you probably understand the health repercussions of the disease to your heart, kidneys and nerves. But you may not be familiar with the risks to your eyes. Diabetes is a risk factor for ocular diseases like glaucoma and cataracts. If your blood sugar levels get too high, diabetic retinopathy, wherein the small blood vessels of the eyes swell, leak or even stop functioning completely, can occur.

At later stages of diabetic retinopathy, the retina actually grows new blood vessels, which leak blood into the eye’s vitreous fluid. The new vessels can also form scar tissue that may lead to the development of a detached retina. The end result of all of these changes is often the partial or complete loss of eyesight.

Individuals At Risk for Diabetes

Overweight individuals are at the most serious risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, which is usually attributed to genetic factors or autoimmune disease, only accounts for 10 percent or less of diabetes cases. Type 2 diabetes is linked to excess body weight, which increases blood sugar levels and triggers insulin resistance. This puts an enormous strain on the pancreas to produce enough insulin.

Some cases of type 2 diabetes are caused by genetic factors; however, the chances of getting it greatly increase if you are obese and/or physically inactive. The higher your body mass index (BMI), the greater your chances of getting type 2 diabetes.

How do we know this? When type 2 diabetics increase their physical activity levels and lose weight, their diabetes either improves or goes away completely.

Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment Options

The best protection against diabetes-related eye problems is to target the root of the problem: diabetes. Our eye doctors highly recommend managing diabetes by taking your medications as prescribed, seeing your medical team regularly, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

The Mittleman Eye team offers several treatments to stop or slow the progression of diabetic eye disease. For example, there are surgical options to shrink or mitigate damage to leaky blood vessels, and a number of medications that may improve symptoms. Avastin, Eylea and Lucentis are medications that are injected directly into the eye, and may reduce internal swelling and slow the progression of the disease. Injectable steroids are also sometimes used.

Nutrients and Fiber to Manage Diabetic Retinopathy

Evidence suggests that increasing your fiber consumption helps your body manage your blood sugar levels. High-fiber foods also help you feel fuller on fewer calories.

A diet rich in key vitamins and minerals strengthens your eyes and helps prevent ocular diseases. Among the best nutrients are omega-3 fats, beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and zinc. Vitamin A, B vitamins, iron and thiamine are essential for your eyes. Non-starchy plant foods, such as fruits and leafy vegetables, are ideal sources of vitamin B. This eye-healthy vitamin can also be found in whole grains, eggs, dairy products, meat, nuts, seeds and legumes. Daily vitamin supplements are a good idea for those who do not consume sufficient amounts of these nutrients.

Exercise, too, is an important way to prevent and manage diabetes. Vigorous physical activity helps your system control glucose and strengthens the pancreas.

Schedule a Consult for Diabetic Retinopathy

If you would like to learn more about diabetes and diabetic retinopathy, we invite you to schedule a personal consultation with an experienced ophthalmologist at our West Palm Beach or Jupiter office by contacting Mittleman Eye today.