Blindness may be one of the most dreaded possible complications related to diabetes. Vision loss in seniors may result in decreased quality of life, increased dependence, added healthcare costs, higher stress levels, and may be accompanied by other serious complications such as amputation or stroke.
Although there are no guarantees for completely preventing any vision problems related to diabetes, a senior with diabetes can take control of his or her health by significantly decreasing risk factors. It is also important to follow a healthy eye care regimen such as wearing premium contacts for vision correction needs.
Look at an overview of common eye complications of diabetes and practical steps for helping to prevent vision loss in seniors with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Common Eye Complications Related to Diabetes
Some of the more common vision problems experienced by diabetics include:
- diabetic retinopathy
- macular edema
- corneal disease
Many of these eye conditions may appear and become advanced without any symptoms. They often affect both eyes. The risk for significant vision problems increases with age, and seniors with diabetes tend to have an even higher risk of developing these conditions.
According to the Florida Department of Health’s 2009 online article entitled “Diabetes and eye conditions,” every year, approximately 12,000 to 24,000 people become blind due to complications of diabetes. Currently, about one-fifth of people who have diabetes will have some form of diabetic retinopathy before they are diagnosed, and virtually all those with at least a 20-year history of type 1 diabetes will have some eye complications.
Steps to Prevent Vision Loss From Diabetes
Seniors diagnosed with diabetes can take several proactive steps to help decrease their chances of having major eye complications, including significant sight impairment and blindness. Three of the best ways to help prevent loss of eyesight in seniors with diabetes are to:
- Keep blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible.
- Maintain regular preventive eye care with an eye care specialist.
- Prevent or control high blood pressure.
Keeping blood sugars under tight control seems to be one of the best ways to decrease the incidence and/or severity of vision problems due to diabetes. A June 1993 Diabetes Control and Complications Trial demonstrated a 76% reduction in eye damage in those who maintained blood glucose (sugar) levels as close to normal as possible.
Many sources recommend that someone with diabetes receive a comprehensive dilated eye examination at least once a year and timely and appropriate eye care. Treatment for these conditions may be ineffective, less effective, or limited once symptoms appear.
According to the National Eye Institute’s online article entitled “Facts About Diabetic Retinopathy,” quick treatment and regular follow-up care of proliferative retinopathy may lower the chance of going blind by 95%.
Blood pressure tends to increase with age. Seniors are more likely to have isolated systolic hypertension (ISH), which is a high top number but normal bottom number. According to Physicians’ Desktop Reference’s 2009 online article entitled “High Blood Pressure (Hypertension),” ISH has many potential complications, such as congestive heart failure, kidney damage, dementia, and severe vision problems, including blindness. Preventing or controlling hypertension can in turn reduce the risk for loss of eyesight as well.
How to Prevent Vision Loss Related to Diabetes
Although many seniors with type 1 and type 2 diabetes experience eye-related side effects, being proactive may greatly reduce the chance of developing severe vision loss or blindness. Maintaining tight control on blood sugar levels, regular eye exams with early interventions, and preventing hypertension may decrease the development or progression of eye damage, which in turn may help seniors to maintain a more independent lifestyle.
In addition, seniors with age-related vision problems that are secondary to diabetes such as diabetic retinopathy and cataracts may still have to undergo laser treatment or surgery to address the problem. Prescription eyewear such as eyeglasses and contact lenses may be worn after the laser or surgical procedure. Can seniors wear contact lenses? Yes, seniors are never too old to wear contact lenses. They can even wear color-enhancing contacts with corrective function.