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Eye Care: 6 Steps to Prevent Eye Problems

Protect your eyesight with these eye care tips:

1. Manage your blood glucose.

One of the best things you can do for your eyes is to keep your blood sugar at near-normal levels. Steady blood sugar control can slow the damage to the tiny blood vessels in your eyes. This helps prevent or delay the start of eye problems linked to diabetes. Two to four times a year, have an A1c blood test, which measures your glucose levels for the 2 to 3 months before you take it. This helps your doctor to better plan your treatment. Aim for a test result of around 7%.

2. Manage your blood pressure.

Control your blood pressure to help slow or prevent eye disease caused by diabetes. Have your blood pressure checked by your doctor at every visit. If a low-salt diet, staying at a healthy weight, and exercise aren't enough to keep it under control, you may need drugs to bring it down to a healthier level. The goal for most people with diabetes is blood pressure of less than 140/80.

3. Have yearly "dilated" eye exams.

An eye doctor needs to widen your pupils with special eye drops to look for early signs of damage to tiny eye blood vessels. Get a full eye exam every year, so your eye doctor can find and treat problems early.

If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, get an eye exam early in your pregnancy and stay in touch with your eye doctor throughout your pregnancy.

4. Watch for warning signs.

The sooner you notice an eye problem, the more likely treatment will help. Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Blurry, cloudy, or double vision
  • Flashing lights or rings around lights
  • Blank, dark, or floating spots in your vision
  • Pain, pressure, or constant redness in your eyes
  • Trouble seeing signs or straight lines
  • Trouble seeing out of the corner of your eye
  • Any sudden change in your vision

 5. Quit smoking.

Smoking damages your blood vessels and raises your odds of eye problems, which are already higher because you have diabetes. If you smoke, get help from your doctor, a support group, or a smoking cessation program so you have strength to quit -- and stay smoke-free. The American Cancer Society and other groups sponsor 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a web site and phone service that gives free advice and support for quitting.

6. Take heart: Diabetes care and eye care work together.

It doesn't take a lot of extra work to take care of your eyes with diabetes. The steps you take to manage diabetes also help keep your eyes healthy. Follow your diabetes meal plan, get enough exercise, and take any diabetes drugs as prescribed. This helps keep your blood sugar levels healthy -- and gives you the best possible chance of keeping your eyesight strong.