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Diabetic Retinopathy (cont.)

Prevention

There are steps you can take to reduce your chance of vision loss from diabetic retinopathy and its complications:

  • Control your blood sugar levels. Keep blood sugar levels in a target range by eating a healthful diet, frequently monitoring your blood sugar levels, getting regular physical exercise, and taking insulin or medicines for type 2 diabetes if prescribed.
  • Control your blood pressure. Retinopathy is more likely to progress to the severe form and that macular edema is more likely to occur in people who have high blood pressure. It is not clear whether treating high blood pressure can directly affect long-term vision. But in general, keeping blood pressure levels in a target range can reduce the risk of many different complications of diabetes. For more information about how to control your blood pressure, see the topic High Blood Pressure (Hypertension).
  • Have your eyes examined by an eye specialist (ophthalmologist or optometrist) every year. Screening for diabetic retinopathy and other eye problems will not prevent diabetic eye disease, but it can help you avoid vision loss by allowing for early detection and treatment.
  • See an ophthalmologist if you have changes in your vision. Changes in vision-such as floaters, pain or pressure in the eye, blurry or double vision, or new vision loss-may be symptoms of serious damage to your retina. In most cases, the sooner the problem can be treated, the more effective the treatment will be.

The risk for severe retinopathy and vision loss may be even less if you:

  • Don't smoke. Although smoking has not been proved to increase the risk of retinopathy, smoking may aggravate many of the other health problems faced by people with diabetes, including disease of the small blood vessels.
  • Avoid hazardous activities. Certain physical activities, like weight lifting or some contact sports, may trigger bleeding in the eye through impact or increased pressure. Avoiding these activities when you have diabetic retinopathy can help reduce the risk of damage to your vision.
  • Get adequate exercise. Exercise helps keep blood sugar levels in a target range, which can reduce the risk of vision damage from diabetic retinopathy. Talk to your doctor about what kinds of exercise are safe for you.
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