The best way to avoid any kind of complications with diabetes is by controlling blood sugar, exercise, diet, lowering stress, and taking medications on time. In addition, we need regular medical check-ups for each part of the body. Eyes, kidneys, skin, teeth, feet, liver, heart--each part of our body needs to be checked closely when we have diabetes. One part is not over the other in order of importance, they are all equal.
The eyes are a very important part of our body that not only let us see light but also lead us through life. Taking care of vision is a big challenge when we have diabetes but it is not impossible. The key is to control our blood sugar along with regular eye checkups every six or 12 months. While non-diabetic people may prefer to go to optometrists for their checkups, people with diabetes are recommended to visit ophthalmologists. The eye specialist I went to specialized in diabetic ophthalmology. A diabetic ophthalmologist is the one who specializes in how to take care of special needs and complications resulting from diabetes. He or she will look into specific parts and functions of the eyes that are sometimes overlooked by regular eye doctors like the retina, optic nerve, lens, blood vessels, fluid pressure, etc., that a diabetic could have problems with. A diabetic eye doctor is not only concerned with the eye problems of his patient but is aware of different aspects of diabetes that lead to them such as medical history including HbA1c, diabetic medications, blood pressure, family history, etc.
When a person with diabetes looks for an eye doctor they should research:
a. Certifications of the physician.
b. Number of years they have been in practice.
c. Affiliations with hospitals.
d. Location of the practice.
e. Types of insurance the physician's office accepts.
f. Degrees and specialties of the physician.
g. Referrals from friends and family.
Be aware that not all the physicians who are suggested by the insurance companies meet our needs and expectations. Research is very important to find the right eye specialist for you.
When a person with diabetes visits the eye specialist relevant information about their medical history should be given without fail. This includes:
a. how long he or she has had diabetes.
b. if there is a family history of diabetes and other complications.
c. daily log of blood sugars.
d. recent blood test results that include HbA1c, blood- pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, lipid panel, etc.
e. any problems with vision including blurring, loss of vision, black spots, bubbles, redness, itching/dryness in the eye, burning of the eye, tiredness of the eyes.
The American Diabetes Association's recommendations for a person diagnosed with diabetes is to have eye checkups as follows:
1. for patients 10 or more years of age with type 1 diabetes - first eye exam within five years of being diagnosed.
2. a dilated eye exam with an eye specialist every 6 months to 1 year.
3. a person with diabetic retinopathy, every six months
4. pregnant women with gestational diabetes--a first visit in the first trimester and then another later in pregnancy.
Every year millions of people with diabetes suffer with different eye complications resulting from the disease, including cataracts, glaucoma, optic nerve damage, diabetic retinopathy and vision loss. Between 40-45 percent of all Americans who have diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy (National Eye Institute). Being a diabetic keeps me on track to care for myself before I get complications. Unfortunately, sometimes it is not enough. Visits to the doctors' offices and regular checkups are best way to prevent problems because, OUR LIFE MATTERS.