You know all-too-well that straining to read a dinner menu can be, alas, just part of getting older. But for a growing number of us, the culprit for changes in vision might actually be more serious.
Visual impairment is on the rise among American adults, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, collected in 1999-2002 and 2005-2008, and found that rates of visual impairment increased a whopping 21 percent between those two periods.
Obvious factors, like advancing age or lack of health insurance, play a role in deteriorating vision. But the standout contributor to the soaring rates is actually diabetes, says lead study author Fang Ko, MD, a resident at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute.
High blood sugar levels can cause blood vessels in the eyes to grow abnormally, resulting in leakage and swelling. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Fluctuating blood glucose levels can lead to cataracts as well as glaucoma,Ã¢â‚¬Â Ko says. In serious cases, patients can wind up with scarring of the retina (the tissue in the back of the eye that processes incoming light and images) or even retinal detachment.
The good news? Whether diabetic or not, there are simple steps you can take to safeguard your vision.
Get your eyes checkedÃ¢â‚¬”regularly Annual eye exams can spot trouble early, but up to a third of adults admit they havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t had one in the last year, says Ko. Younger adults are especially at risk, because they tend to assume their vision is fine unless they notice major changes. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The key is to get checked before something goes wrong,Ã¢â‚¬Â Ko says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“That way, your doctor can identify early signs of potential problems and address them before they lead to visual impairment.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Keep blood sugar in check If you have diabetes already, take steps to maintain stable blood glucose levels, which will help prevent blood vessel damage in your eyes, Ko says.Ã‚Â (The right diet is vital to stable glucose, so consider adding these 14 Healthy Foods For Diabetics to your diet.)
Watch for serious symptoms Often, diabetes-related eye problems donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t show warning signs until the condition is severe. But blurred vision, trouble seeing at night, shadows or missing areas of vision, and floaters (tiny particles drifting inside the eye) can all indicate early stages of problems.
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