Did you know that 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes? As part of American Diabetes Month, it’s important to be aware of the impact diabetes can have on your vision and dental health.
When it comes to your eyes, one of the most serious conditions associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. Occurring in the back of the eye, the vessels in the retina can narrow and become damaged. If blood supply to the retina is reduced, the body will begin to grow new blood vessels. However, these new blood vessels are weak and can bleed easily, which in turn could affect your vision.
Diabetic retinopathy generally occurs in both eyes, but may be asymptomatic in its early stages. Symptoms can include:
- Seeing spots or floaters
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty seeing at night
If you are diabetic, early detection is key. It is estimated that 90% of vision loss due to diabetes can be prevented. The most effective step you can take to preserve vision is receiving regular vision care exams. Be sure to inform your eye care provider if you have any changes in your vision.
Other recommendations to help protect your vision health include:
- Giving up tobacco
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
- Controlling blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Although oral health may not come to mind when considering effects of diabetes, it is a concern for those with the systemic disease.
A person with diabetes who does not have their blood sugar under control is at higher risk for developing gingivitis and periodontal (gum) disease. They have a higher risk because they are more susceptible to bacterial infection since diabetes affects the integrity of the immune system, and therefore their bodies are unable to fight off the bacteria.
For diabetics, controlling blood sugar levels is the best way to help maintain oral health. In addition, it is important to have a proper daily dental hygiene routine. This should include:
- Brushing—twice a day for two minutes
- Rinsing—using mouthwash can help prevent plaque
- Flossing—once a day to remove any particles stuck between teeth
As always, if you have any concerns or problems with your vision or oral health, consult your eye or dental care provider right away.