People with vision loss or other disabilities who have diabetes face unique challenges. Actively managing diabetes is key to long-term health.
New York — Nov. 2017 — November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Lighthouse Guild has a number of tips for people with diabetes or who are at risk for it.
“If you have diabetes, you are at higher risk of developing eye disease, including diabetic retinopathy,” says Dr. Carmen Pal, who heads the Lighthouse Guild Bendheim Center for Diabetes Care. “The good news is that there is much you can do to preserve your vision and reduce your risk of eye disease,” she adds.
“If you notice any changes in your vision, you should see your physician as soon as possible,” Dr. Pal says. “However, careful monitoring and regular eye exams, in consultation with your eye care specialist, can help you avoid vision loss, as well as other health problems associated with diabetes.”
Manage your health. Have a comprehensive dilated eye examination with your ophthalmologist or optometrist once a year. In its early stages, diabetic eye disease often has no symptoms. By regularly monitoring your eye health, you can begin treatment as soon as possible if signs of disease appear.
See an endocrinologist. With diabetes, one of the best ways you can improve your health is to consult an endocrinologist. If you have diabetes, many medications are available to help. Talk to your physician about a referral.
Set up your diabetes team. If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, actively manage your health. Through the Lighthouse Guild Bendheim Center for Diabetes Care, for example, a certified diabetes educator will help you learn practical techniques and strategies for monitoring your blood sugar and taking your medications. These techniques and strategies, along with lifestyle changes will help you feel better. The registered dietician will help you put together meal plans that work for you, and can show you how to make smart choices when eating outside your home.
Take care of your feet. If you have diabetes, it is especially important that you pay special attention to your feet. You may not be able to feel or see injuries as well as you should, and cuts may take longer to heal. The podiatrist is an important part of your diabetes healthcare team.
Exercise. Regular exercise can help your eyes stay as healthy as possible while helping to control your diabetes.
Try group support. “If you have diabetes, you aren’t alone,” says Dr. Pal. “You can join a diabetes support group and learn from people who are in the same situation and understand what you are facing. Share your experience and what you’ve learned and get support from others.”
About Lighthouse Guild
Lighthouse Guild, based in New York, is the leading not-for-profit healthcare organization dedicated to addressing and preventing vision loss through coordinated vision and health services. With Lighthouse Guild, people who are at risk for, or affected by, vision loss have access to all the resources necessary to lead full, independent and productive lives. For more information, visit www.LighthouseGuild.org.