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There is a lot to think about when it comes to your health and diabetes, however, your diabetes team is here to help along the way. Your endocrinologist, diabetes educator and pharmacist are part of your routine follow-ups, but do you visit an eye doctor and a foot specialist regularly? An eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) and a foot specialist (chiropodist) are specialists who can help prevent and treat diabetes related complications related to your eyes and feet. 

How is diabetes related to your eyes and feet? Blood and nerves travel all around the body. For example, there are tiny blood vessels in the eyes and larger vessels that travel to the heart. No matter what the size is, too much sugar in the blood can damage a blood vessel. Behind the eye, there is a very thin layer of tissue made up of small vessels called the retina. If a high amount of sugar is in the blood, the blood vessels in the retina can swell up and leak causing blurred vision and/or blind spots. This is called diabetic retinopathy. It’s important to know that blurred vision is also a sign of high blood sugar and does not always mean there is damage to the eye(s). Often when we are first diagnosed with diabetes, we are dehydrated. Dehydration causes the lens in the eye to swell which also leads to blurred vision.

Regular check ups with your eye doctor can help prevent or delay any damage to the retina. It is recommended to see the eye doctor at least once a year; however, your eye doctor may suggest otherwise depending on your eye health. If you are pregnant, eye damage can get worse. Visit your eye doctor before you become pregnant and during your pregnancy.

Signs that you need to see your eye doctor immediately include:

  • Blurred vision

  • You are seeing flashes of light

  • Sudden loss of vision

  • Blotches or spots in your vision

And what about the nerves? Too much sugar in the blood can also damage the nerves that travel to our hands, arms, legs and feet. Overtime, damage can lead to losing feeling in these areas altogether, this is called diabetic neuropathy. Your nerves need nutrients to work well so that you can feel pain and temperature.  If these nerves are damaged, you may feel burning, numbness, throbbing or tingling. Imagine if there was a cut on your foot and you did not feel it; if left untreated, it could lead to an infection.

If you experience neuropathy, here are some helpful tricks:

  • Look at your feet and legs every day. Do you see cuts or sores? If so, tell your doctor or chiropodist.

  • Regular nail care. Don’t cut your nails too short, or ask your chiropodist to help

  • Apply lotion if your feet are dry. Do not apply lotion in between your toes

  • When taking a bath or shower, test the water with your hand or elbow before to make sure the water isn’t too hot.

  • Do not soak your feet.

  • Wear proper fitting shoes. Go shoe shopping at the end of the day rather than first thing in the morning. Your feet swell during the day which is a better indicator for shoe size.

Visiting your chiropodist and/or getting your feet check regularly is essential to your diabetes management. It is encouraged to visit your chiropodist once a year or more frequently if needed.

How to prevent diabetic retinopathy & diabetic neuropathy?
The ABCDE’s of staying healthy!

 

  • A is for A1c – aim for an A1c of 7% or less.

  • B is for Blood Pressure – aim for a blood pressure of less than 130/80

  • C is for Cholesterol – aim for an LDL (bad) cholesterol of less than 2.0 mmol/L

  • D is for Drugs to protect your heart – some drugs can help protect your heart. Speak with your diabetes team.

  • E is for Exercise and Eating – aim to eat healthy and be regularly active. 

  • S is for Screening for complications – prevent complications to your heart, kidneys, eyes & feet.

  • S is also for Smoking Cessation and Self-Management.

There is a lot to think about when it comes to your health and diabetes, however, your diabetes team is here to help along the way. Your endocrinologist, diabetes educator and pharmacist are part of your routine follow-ups, but do you visit an eye doctor and a foot specialist regularly? An eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) and a foot specialist (chiropodist) are specialists who can help prevent and treat diabetes complications related to your eyes and feet.