Posted on

Diabetes and eye health: What your patients don’t know can hurt their vision

apple-19309_640-2In 2013 it was estimated at more than 382 million people throughout the world had diabetes. Diabetes, if not treated, can cause an array of complications ranging from kidney disease to stroke. It can also lead to diabetic retinopathy — the most common cause of blindness in the U.S. and the world.

Diabetes needs to be managed properly, especially to avoid vision loss. Patients who have diabetes need the guidance of their EyeCare Professional as they might neglect their eye health if they don’t understand how this disease affects their visual system. Here are some assumptions patients with diabetes might make that can hurt their vision in the long run.

“If I do a better job at controlling my blood sugar, I won’t need follow-up treatment.

Fact: Once retinopathy begins, it is very tough to wrangle into submission. While controlling blood sugar improves survivability of the unaffected vessels and slows down the progression, diabetic retinopathy is unpredictable. Follow-up care is very important to ensure proper visual health.

“If I can see without pain, that means I’m ok.”

Fact: Many of your patients who have diabetes believe that if they can see clearly and there’s an absence of pain, there’s no need to worry or to check in with you. That’s why eye appointments and follow-ups are so crucial. Many people with Type 2 diabetes actually suffer from the disease for a far longer period than their actual diagnosis date. There’s no “grace period” between the time of diagnosis and presence of organ damage.

People with diabetes require close monitoring and follow-up care until you, their EyeCare Professional, feels the condition has stabilized.

“I’m sure my eye doctor will have a fix for this.”

Fact: Although the patient’s symptoms can materialize suddenly, the disease has been evolving for some time. There is no quick solution. There is no cure for diabetic retinopathy. This is a condition that will have to be carefully managed for the rest of the person’s life. This is an important conversation to have with your patient.

My other health issues probably don’t affect my eyes.

Fact: Diseases such as hypertension, renal insufficiency, and sleep apnea affect the progression of diabetic retinopathy. These issues can also greatly affect the health of the eye. Reinforce with the patient that it is in his/her best interest to quit smoking and maintain a healthy weight — as those factors play a significant role in long term outcomes.

“What I eat might affect my diabetes but it doesn’t affect my eye health.”

Nutrition and eye health are intimately connected. Certain nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin protect visual cells. Other nutrients like Vitamin C and E reduce oxidative stress. Omega 3 and 6 can improve the membrane of cells.

While certain nutrients like Vitamin C are abundant in the American diet, others, like zeaxanthin, aren’t. In that case, supplementation can be of huge help.

For more information on how supplementation can positively impact your patients’ eye health, download our free guide:

Protecting and preserving your retinal health