Retinopathy in Recently Diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes: It Doesn't Look Good (Continued)
So how can you reduce your risk of retinopathy as a person with diabetes? Blood glucose control is crucial, and so is blood pressure management. Even if your A1C is on target, an elevated blood pressure (over 130/80 mm Hg) should be an action item for you and your diabetes care team. If your blood pressure is over 130/80 mm Hg and you are already taking blood pressure medication, it may be necessary for your healthcare providers to adjust your prescription. Eye health and kidney health are closely connected in people with diabetes: if your doctor says you have protein in your urine or a condition called "microalbuminuria," taking pills called ARBs or ACE-inhibitors can really help improve your kidney health and reduce your risk of diabetic kidney disease. And those drugs are also used as blood pressure medications!
Getting your eyes examined for retinopathy every year is a minor inconvenience that can save your sight. If you've been putting off that eye doctor appointment because you think you can see just fine, remember that retinopathy can be "silent" (that is, undetectable to you) for a long time before a blood vessel in your eye bursts and makes you blind. A qualified eye specialist can see evidence of retinopathy years before any vision is lost. He or she can refer you to an ophthalmologist for further treatment, which may include laser surgery.
When you make your appointment, mention to the receptionist that you are diabetic and will need a retinopathy screening. Arrange for someone else to drive you home after the appointment in case your pupils must be dilated for the examination. Some retinopathy screening techniques, such as the use of a retinal camera that takes a picture of the inside of your eye (pretty cool, in our view!), can be used without dilation, but the traditional exam involves dilation. If a camera's picture of the inside of your eye is not clear, the doctor may wish to dilate your pupils just to be on the safe side. Wearing sunglasses indoors for a few hours after an eye appointment only makes you look like a rock star, though – very cool.
Kelly Close is editor in chief of diaTribe (www.diaTribe.us), a free online newsletter for patients looking for more information on products and research.
NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.
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