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It’s vision health month, and the perfect time to talk about the health of your eyes. People with diabetes are at risk of experiencing diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to vision changes or some form of blindness. But there are several ways to prevent reduce the risk of worsening vision, beginning with keeping your blood sugar in your target range, and getting your eyes checked annually. We spoke to Amin Hirji, RPh, CDE from the Walmart pharmacy in Stouffville, Ont., and Samir Modhera, BSc, RO, from the Walmart vision centre in Orangeville, Ont. for their answers to common questions.

I have diabetes. I heard it can affect my vision. Can you tell me how?

Amin: Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable blindness in those 20 to 65 years of age. If you have diabetes, you are at risk of experiencing some form of eye damage, or diabetic retinopathy, which could lead to vision changes or even blindness. Over time, when you have too much sugar in your blood, also known as high blood glucose, it can damage the blood vessels in the part of the eye called the retina. The retina is the tissue lining the back of the eye. The high sugar levels can cause the blood vessels to swell and leak into the retina and can cause blurred vision or blind spots. If left untreated, more blood vessels may grow and cause further damage to your vision. The result is a loss of sight.

How often should I get my eyes checked if I live with type 1 diabetes? Type 2? Prediabetes?

Amin: Diabetic eye disease is a term for several eye problems that can all result from high blood glucose, including diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataract and glaucoma. Rapid changes in blood sugar levels can cause sugar to leak into the lens of the eye, causing swelling and blurred vision.

However, early eye damage can occur without pain, redness or blurred vision. Therefore, people with diabetes need to have their eyes examined regularly by an optometrist or ophthalmologist to ensure changes are detected early. When caught early, eye disease can be treated with medications or laser surgery to prevent further permanent damage. If left untreated, the disease can lead to blindness.

People living with any type of diabetes are advised to have their eyes examined every 12 months or as recommended by an eye doctor.

Samir: People living with type 1 or 2 diabetes may be covered for annual eye examinations under their province’s health benefits program or their private insurance, if available. 

Are there any supplements or prescription medications that I can take to improve eye health and vision?

Amin: Supplements with optimal combinations of vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B6, L-methyl folate, methylcobalamin (B12), C, D, natural vitamin E complex, lutein, Zeaxanthin, and alpha-lipoic acid may help protect the retina. Some options to consider are Ocuvite, Preservision and Vitalux. Always speak to your doctor or pharmacist to determine what products are right for you.

Are there any steps I can take now that will guard against vision loss later?

Amin: The good news is that there are steps you can take to help prevent complications that could lead to vision loss.

• Visit an eye care specialist (optometrist or ophthalmologist) at least once a year. They may recommend you visit more or less frequently depending on your situation.

• Maintain optimal blood glucose levels, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, regular physical activity.

• Avoid smoking

• Know your A1C (a test of your average blood glucose level over three months). Most people with diabetes should aim for a target of 7.0 or less. Talk to your healthcare professional about what your target should be.

How can a pharmacist or optician ease any concerns people may have about their diabetes or navigate questions about their care?

Amin: Pharmacists and opticians do not diagnose diabetes or diabetic retinopathy; however, they can perform health screenings to provide valuable information to patients that may be unaware they are at risk.

They may start the conversation by asking their patients about their last eye examination and whether they have any health conditions or family history of glaucoma that should be noted on file. If the patient has been previously diagnosed with diabetes, they may be provided with a Medication Review, Diabetic Retinopathy Self-Assessment form to complete or offered an appointment for a routine eye exam in one of our vision centres.

Samir: Walmart pharmacists and opticians may also provide their patients with information about diabetes through digital initiatives, as well as in-store support tools and resources. Additionally, Walmart hosts in-store educational events, such as Walmart Wellness Days that provide patients with access to screening for type 2 diabetes. Pharmacists, opticians and a network of certified diabetes educators (CDEs) at Walmart are all well positioned to play an integral role in diabetes management and prevention.

If you have any questions about vision health and diabetes, consult your local optician or pharmacist.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the sponsor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Diabetes Canada.

Author: Walmart Canada

Category Tags: Healthy Living;

Region: National

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