Diabetes can have detrimental effects on eyesight if not controlled. In fact, diabetes is the third leading cause of blindness in the United States. For this reason, it is recommended that everyone with diabetes see an ophthalmologist or an optometrist once a year for a dilated eye exam. But why? High blood glucose (aka blood sugar) can cause multiple complications in the eye. One example is Retinopathy, which is defined as damage to the retina in the eye that can cause impairment or loss of vision. Retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss in people with diabetes.
High blood glucose can also lead to cataracts and glaucoma. Most of the time an ophthalmologist or optometrist can detect these issues in the early stages and sometimes before vision is lost. If detected early, there are treatment options that may prevent blindness.
It is also important to take care of your teeth. It has been said many times that the health of your teeth and gums can be a window to your overall health. Diabetes can have a great impact on oral health. Uncontrolled blood glucose can increase your risk for gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis, cavities, and even tooth loss. But that may not be the only reason to brush and floss your teeth. There is some evidence that suggests that people with severe gum disease may have a harder time controlling their blood glucose, leading to worsening diabetes.
So what can you do to protect your eyes and teeth?
Control your blood glucose. Most complications associated with diabetes stem from high levels of blood glucose over a period of time.
Stop smoking or using tobacco. Tobacco use increases the risk for gum disease and blindness from retinopathy.
Go to your regular check-ups. You should see the dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and dental exam and the ophthalmologist or optometrist at least once a year for a dilated eye exam.
Maintain normal blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase your risk of retinopathy.
Brush your teeth twice daily and floss every day to prevent cavities and gum infections.