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Month: November 2013

What You Should Know about Diabetes and Your Vision

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Diabetes affects people of all ages, races and genders. An estimated 25.8 million Americans or 8.3 percent of the population suffer from the disease, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2011. In fact, diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults in the North America.

If you or someone you care for has diabetes, here are 6 things you need to know about how it impacts eyes and vision.

  1. What is diabetic eye disease?
    Diabetic eye disease is most commonly associated with diabetic retinopathy, which is characterized by damage to the blood vessels of the retina and can lead to blindness. According to the National Eye Institute, it can also cause premature cataracts and glaucoma.
  2. How does it impact vision?
    In diabetic retinopathy, the small blood vessels that nourish the retina at the back of the eye become weak as a result of fluctuating sugar levels in the bloodstream. This causes bleeding at the back of the eye, reduced circulation and less oxygen and nutrients reaching the retina. As a result, new fragile blood vessels are produced to compensate. However, the abnormal blood vessels can start leaking fluid and small amounts of blood into the retina, causing vision loss. In the worst cases, the retina can scar or detach, causing permanent vision loss.
  3. What are the symptoms?
    At first, someone with diabetic retinopathy may not experience any noticeable symptoms. That is why early detection is crucial and diabetics should have a dilated eye exam at least once a year to screen for diabetic retinopathy. In most cases, by the time you realize something is wrong, the disease is so far advanced that lost vision can’t be restored.

    In its advanced stage symptoms may include:

    • Fluctuating vision
    • Eye floaters and spots
    • The development of a shadow in your field of view
    • Blurry vision, or double vision
  4. Who is at risk?
    Anyone who has diabetes type 1 or type 2 has a greater chance of developing vision loss. Even gestational diabetes and pre-diabetes increase the risk of diabetic eye disease. An estimated 40 to 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some degree of diabetic retinopathy, according to the NEI. That is why anyone with diabetes should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely it is to have an effect on your vision.

    Race and family history can also put you at risk for the disease. If you are of Hispanic, African, Asian, Pacific Island, or Native American descent, you are more likely to develop diabetes. Lifestyle – including your weight, diet and how active you are – also plays a role in the development and management of diabetes, as well as its effect on the eyes.

  5. How is diabetic eye disease treated?
    There are effective medical treatments, including injections into the eye to prevent leaking blood vessels and laser treatment to prevent and reduce vision loss as a result of diabetes, but early detection and treatment are vital!
  6. What steps can I take to reduce diabetes related vision loss?
    Make sure to keep your blood sugar levels under control and monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol. Speak to your doctor about what your target goals should be to prevent further deterioration. Often, when diabetes causes damage to the eyes, it is also an indication of the damage occurring in the kidneys and other areas in the body with small nerves and blood vessels, too. Exercise, maintain a healthy diet and keep your cholesterol levels low. Schedule eye exams yearly or as often as your eye doctor and medical doctor advise.

Knowing the risks and symptoms of diabetic retinopathy is not enough. If you or a loved one has diabetes, don’t take chances. The only real way to safeguard your vision is by making your eye health a priority.

Take a diabetes risk test.

Keeping Your Contact Lenses Clean

contact in solution

If you wear contact lenses, you probably know the hygiene routine you should follow when removing your lenses:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and dry them on a clean, lint free cloth.
  2. Remove the lens from your eye and clean the lens immediately (if you wear multi-use lenses). Gently rinse it with the solution recommended by your optometrist, and scrub it clean from edge to edge with solution. Do not wait until morning to rub the lenses, as the debris gets stuck on the lens and delayed cleaning will not be as effective.
  3. Place the contact lens in a contact lens storage case that’s filled with fresh, clean disinfecting or multi-purpose solution and close the lid. If you wear daily disposables, throw them away after use.

Even if you know these guidelines, if you're honest with yourself, how many times have you NOT followed this optometrist prescribed routine and taken short cuts in your contact lens hygiene such as:

  • Cleaning your contacts with saliva or water
  • Storing lenses in liquids other than proper multi-purpose or disinfecting solution. (Saline is NOT a disinfectant.)
  • Not following the proper wearing schedule (wearing dailies for more than one day, monthlies longer than a month, sleeping in daytime lenses, etc.)
  • Sleeping or swimming in your lenses

In fact, a vision scientist at the University of Texas surveyed 443 contact lens patients and found that less than one percent cared for their lenses properly. 

Here are some of the most common mistakes made in caring for contact lenses and why it’s important to change your habits now.

The Mistake: Storing or washing contact lenses in tap water.
The Risk: Although this seems harmless, tap water can cause serious damage to your eyes. Since regular tap water is not sterile, it can cause infections, like Acanthomaeoba.  Homemade saline has also been known to lead to certain fungal eye infections.
The Solution: Never wash or store lenses in tap water or any liquid other than contact lens solution. Even more so try to avoid swimming or showering with your lenses in to avoid contact with tap or chlorine filled water.

The Mistake: Using saliva to wash lenses.
The Risk:  Saliva is full of bacteria that belong in your mouth and not in your eyes. If you have a cut in your eye, the bacteria could get trapped under your lens and cause an infection.
The Solution: Always carry a small container of lens solution or artificial tears. If your lenses are bothering you, either use proper solution or remove them until you are able to treat them properly.  

The Mistake: Reuse cleaning solution or topping off your lens storage case.
The Risk: Reusing solution is like begging for an eye infection. This is because all the debris and bacteria that are in your eyes and are on your contact lenses come off into the solution. So if you recycle solution, you are putting all that bacteria right back into your eye. If you have any microscopic breaks in your cornea, the bacteria can then infect your cornea.
The Solution:  Use fresh solution every time you store your contact lenses. Also be sure to empty out ALL the remaining solution from your storage case from the previous day before adding new solution to it. If this is too much to remember or do, try using daily disposable lenses.

The Mistake: Not adhering to the schedule for the prescribed lenses. (Note: Certain extended wear lenses are approved for 30 days wear, but proper fit is essential for success even if the lens allows high oxygen permeability.)
The Risk: After the approved time for contact lens use, today’s thin contact lenses do not retain their shape and structure. If you re-wear lenses that are meant to be used for a specified time period, mucus and bacteria can build up because cleaning solutions do not protect the lenses for longer than the approved wearing time. Between the lens changes and the tendency for contamination, you increase the risk of eye irritation and infection.
The solution: Follow the recommended schedule you are given for wearing your lenses.

The Mistake: Wearing contact lenses when your vision is blurry or your eyes hurt a little
The Risk: When in doubt, take them out! If your lenses cause you any discomfort, or your eyes look a bit red, listen to your body rather than suffering through the discomfort that can potentially develop into an infection.
The Solution: If your eyes are bothering you, first try applying lubricating drops made for contact lens wearers.  If that doesn’t help, take the lenses out and check them to make sure they are not damaged or dirty. If it does not look good to you, do not use it.

Improper contact lens hygiene can lead to, red eyes, blurry vision, irritation, and in the most severe cases serious infections and corneal abrasion, which can lead to blindness. So the bottom line is: listen to your optometrists’ instructions and keep your lenses clean!

For more information, watch this video on contact lens care: