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Going NUTS for DONUTS may not be the best thing for your eyes.

Updated: Jun 16, 2020

We all love sweets, especially a fresh hot donut – and on today of all days especially. On national donut day, we want to take a moment to remind our patients and communities about the long-term effects of too many salty or sweet foods – or even some genetic conditions – that can cause severe issues for the body if not dealt with properly. The resulting effects of an unhealthy diet and other factors can cause the development or worsening of unknown diabetes, and can cause damage to the heart, lungs, joints, and even permanent damage to your eyes.

Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose levels are too high or become more difficult to manage. Glucose comes directly from ingested foods and its digestion and use are facilitated by insulin, a hormone that for type 1 diabetics is not properly produced or not produced at all by the body. Because of this, excess sugars can accumulate in the bloodstream causing changes in pressure, structure, and liquidity. Diabetes can damage blood vessels all over the body from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. The damage to your eyes caused by diabetes begins when glucose accumulates enough to block the tiny blood vessels that lead to the retina. This blockage can cause your eyes to build pressure leading to leaking of fluid, or in some cases, rupturing and bleeding of blood vessels. To make up for these blocked blood vessels the eye then attempts to grow new blood vessels; often these new vessels do not function well and also leak or bleed easily leading to further damage. RELATED: Cataracts Awareness Month

This disorder is called Diabetic Retinopathy and is caused by high blood sugar due to diabetes. Over time this increase in sugar can cause severe and permanent damage to your retina – the part of your eye that allows you to detect light and sends signals through your optic nerve to your brain to allow sight to be deciphered. How often should you see an eye care provider?

If you have diabetes, it is very important to get regular eye exams. In fact, if you do develop diabetic retinopathy early treatments can help to prevent blindness and alleviate or stop damage to the eyes and often involve regular eye testing.

The ADA (American Diabetic Association) recommends adults with Type 1 Diabetes have an eye exam within five years of being diagnosed and every year after that. For adults with Type 2 Diabetes they recommend an exam soon after you have found out you have diabetes. After the first eye exam, all adults with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam every year.

The risks for developing diabetes and diabetic related diseases increase as you age, and for women could also become an issue to talked to your physicians about during pregnancy, as gestational diabetes can develop while in labor. Almost half of all Americans with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy, however, there is GOOD NEWS, properly managing your diabetes can slow down or even prevent the presence or change in symptoms that may affect your eyes.

A comprehensive dilated eye exam may be one of the best steps to take in diagnosing and preventing diabetes related optic diseases in all age groups. Scheduling regular eye exams is the best way to ensure that you maintain visual acuity (or how well you can see).

SEE HERE: How to get an eye exam with KEAGAN Diabetic retinopathy can also cause neovascular glaucoma which can block fluid from draining out of the eyes. This is most commonly in association with Diabetic Macular Edema, which causes the macula to swell and fill with liquid. This can cause blurry vision and lead to blindness. The importance of continued visual wellness checks is to prevent the deterioration of your eyes to a point where they may be compromised like this. Fortunately for many suffering from diabetes or pre-diabetes there are some relatively simple ways to prevent diabetic retinopathy and even treat it, and the diseases it may lead to. Some of the most common ways to prevent diabetes related diseases is to manage your diabetes, in doing so you’ll greatly lower your risk of diabetic retinopathy. This means keeping blood sugar levels as close to their normal levels as possible. The easiest way to keep regular blood levels consistently is to exercise regularly while making sure to focus on healthier eating scenarios. These two things when coupled with medical advice from your doctor may provide to you can lead to a healthier path that could prevent the damage of your overall body, and specifically your eyes. A variety of tests exist to allow you to accurately test your blood sugar levels throughout the day. More specifically A1c tests allow you to accurately average and test your blood sugar levels to find an average that allows you to better manage diabetes or diabetic retinopathy.

If you’ve already began showing symptoms of any kind of partial blindness or eye irritation from diabetic related eye diseases there are several treatments for both Diabetic Retinopathy and DME that can help alleviate or even reverse symptoms as long as caught within the early stages of disease development. Doctors often may just track how eyes progress and recommend eye exams ever 60 days to 120 days.

In later stages treatment often starts right away – especially if it begins to affect vision. While some level of damage cannot be undone it can be stopped from continuing to degrade. Alongside proper management of blood pressure, sugar levels, cholesterol, and overall health there are several treatments that are often used in the field.

The first and most common is an injection, often these injections are medicines called anti-VEGF drugs. These medications can helps slow down or reverse diabetic retinopathy. Other medicines, most often a specific type of steroid, called corticosteroids, are often also used to help.

The second most common used treatment that is still non-invasive is the use of laser treatment. Eyes can be strategically hit with the small high powered lasers which use laser photocoagulation to shrink, seal, or destroy vessels in the eyes which can help to aid in lessening bleeding and leaking from the eyes.

The third most common, and the most invasive would be direct eye surgery. In the event that your retinas are constantly leaking or bleeding, or there is lots of scarring within the eye tissue, doctors may recommend a vitrectomy. This surgery is used to remove vitreous bodies from the inside of the eye wall with a suction tool. Vitreous bodies are nothing scary - just clear gel build ups that accumulate between the lens and retina, especially in situations like diabetic eye related illness. Sometimes this procedure allows people to be back on their feet within a day while others may need 2-4 weeks to fully recover.

Scientists are always studying diseases like this and trying to find out more about how these things happen and the best ways to treat and prevent vision loss in all people – even those with preexisting or developing conditions like diabetes.

So remember, this national doughnut day, enjoy your sweets in moderation. Always remember to regularly check your eye health and consult with your doctor on the effect’s diabetes could have on your body and ways to best combat and manage them.

For more information on diabetic retinopathy please visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology article linked HERE.

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