The retina is the receptive element of the eye, similar to photographic film which captures the image formed in a camera. The retina converts images into electrical signals, which are transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve. While other portions of the eye may be transplanted or replaced with artificial implants, the retina, given its connections to the brain, is not amenable to replacement. In order to function properly, the retina must be attached properly inside the eye and have appropriate nutrition. The body is very protective of the retina and loss or breach of one of these protective functions can result in severe visual loss.
Awareness of sun safety is important. Studies show that exposure to bright sunlight may increase the risk of developing cataracts and growths on the eye, including cancer. Sunlight reflected off sand, water and glass can cause photokeratitis, the condition responsible for snow blindness. So if you like to spend your summer on the beach or by the pool, this is important!
“UV radiation…can damage the eye’s surface tissues as well as the cornea and lens,” said Michael Kutryb, MD, ophthalmologist and clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the dangers UV light can pose. By wearing UV-blocking sunglasses, you can enjoy the summer safely while lowering your risk for potentially blinding eye diseases and tumors.” It is important to start wearing proper eye protection at an early age to protect your eyes from years of ultraviolet exposure.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the following:
Wear sunglasses labeled “100% UV protection”: Use only glasses that block both UV-A and UV-B rays and that are labeled either UV400 or 100% UV protection. If you wear UV-blocking contact lenses, you’ll still need sunglasses.
Wear a hat: Along with your sunglasses; broad-brimmed hats are best.
Remember the kids: It’s best to keep children out of direct sunlight during the middle of the day. Make sure they wear sunglasses and hats whenever they are in the sun.
Know that clouds don’t block UV light: The sun’s rays can easily pass through clouds. Sun damage to the eyes can occur any time of year, not just in summer.
Be extra careful in UV-intense conditions: Sunlight is strongest midday to early afternoon, at higher altitudes, and when reflected off of water, sand and glass.
Summer is an amazing time for kids but keeping your family safe is always a priority. Make sure that sunscreen, hats and sunglasses are always part of your daily routine!
Maintaining your vision requires you to take care of yourself, and avoiding issues related to your diabetes. The blood vessels in your eyes can be damaged by high blood sugar, resulting in a condition called diabetic retinopathy. With diabetes, you are also more susceptible to cataracts and glaucoma.
To track your blood sugar’s effect on your eyes, have an A1c blood test several times a year. It will show your blood sugar levels over the past few months, and you want a reading of 7% or less.
Diabetics should visit their eye doctor at least once a year to detect any problem early. Your eye doctor will dilate your pupils and examine your blood vessels for damage or any changes.
If you have diabetes and high blood pressure, you are compounding your risks. Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure at every visit, and keep your blood pressure under control. For diabetics, you want a reading under 130/80.
Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, you don’t have to rely on willpower alone to stop. Ask your doctor for options to help you quit, or find a support program that works for you. Smoking has a damaging effect on your blood vessels on its own, and combined with diabetes can make you vastly more likely to develop eye problems.
You can further regulate your blood sugar with an exercise regimen. Ask your doctor when is the best time to check your levels before or during your workouts, especially if you are on insulin or other medications. There are a variety of workout programs, so keep looking until you find one that you enjoy.
Eat fewer processed foods. Adding more fresh fruits, proteins, vegetables and whole grains to your diet offers innumerable benefits. Consult your doctor about changes to your diet, especially if you are taking insulin, and visit a nutritionist for a plan that works for you.
Get your cholesterol tested regularly. A simple test will tell you your bad (LDL) and good (HDL) levels. Too much “bad” cholesterol (LDL) is associated with blood vessel damage.
Call your doctor right away if you are experiencing any changes in your vision or problems with your eyes. Symptoms such as black spots, light flashes, blurry vision or loss of sight require immediate care.