Reducing your risk of diabetic retinopathy
There are factors that can increase your risk of diabetes and diabetic retinopathy (DR) that you can control. Preventing diabetic retinopathy is strongly linked to how well you manage your risk factors and control your diabetes.
Regular eye appointments
Regular eye exams with your eye health professional can identify diabetic retinopathy at its earliest stage before vision loss has occurred. Early detection and treatment is crucial to saving your sight. If you don’t have a regular optometrist, you can search for one near you using our online database.
Diet and exercise
Excess weight, especially around the waist, can substantially increase your risk of diabetes progressing. A healthy diet and regular exercise help insulin to work better. They also help lower your blood pressure and reduce weight. Exercise is also a great way to reduce stress.
Losing just five to 10 per cent of your current weight can significantly reduce your risk.
Aim to incorporate exercise into your daily routine and adopt a healthy eating program.
Healthy eating for diabetes includes selecting high fibre, lower glycemic index (GI) carbohydrate foods and reducing fat, especially saturated fat.
You should speak to your general practitioner, dietitian or someone who helps manage your diabetes to find an eating plan that is suitable. Make sure you talk to your health professional before making any changes to your diet.
Control blood glucose levels
If your blood glucose levels are regularly above target levels, you’re at risk of developing DR. Make sure you work with your GP or endocrinologist to keep your blood glucose at optimal levels.
A blood glucose meter is a simple device you can use at home to monitor your levels. If you have low vision, you can purchase a talking blood glucose meter.
Control blood pressure
If you have high blood pressure, you’re more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy and it is more likely to progress rapidly. If you already have some degree of DR, you should aim for a systolic blood pressure (the bigger number) of 130 mmHg or less. High blood pressure may also aggravate any diabetic macular edema.
Control blood lipids
If you have abnormal blood lipids (fats in the blood) you’re at greater risk of developing DR. Ask your GP or endocrinologist to help get your blood lipids to normal levels to help prevent diabetic retinopathy.
Smoking significantly increases your risk of diabetes and its related conditions. It also increases blood pressure and blood glucose levels, making it harder to control diabetes and prevent diabetic retinopathy.
If you smoke, seek help to quit.
KeepSight is an eye check reminder program for people with diabetes.
If you register with KeepSight, you can nominate when you last had an eye exam. KeepSight will then remind you when your next eye exam is due.