November is National Diabetes Month

National Diabetes Month

With November being National Diabetes Month, it’s the perfect time to talk about things that every person with diabetes should do at least once a year. Some of these recommendations should be done more frequently if there are problems or changes in your health, but even when you are doing great there are 4 things which are recommended for every diabetic. They are: 1) dilated eye exam 2) foot exam by a healthcare professional 3) a kidney test called a microalbumin level and 4) full bloodwork, including your A1c. This month I thought I would do a few posts in a series, by taking the time to explain why each of these are important.

Even with the best blood sugar control, it is unusual to keep it in the normal range all the time. This elevation in your blood sugar is toxic to the nerves and small blood vessels in your body. Each of these tests/exams are designed to find problems early so they can be treated more effectively. Changes in blood sugar can cause blurry vision by the way it changes the shape of the globe of the eye, but even more concerning is diabetic retinopathy. Simply put, the small blood vessels that feed the part of the eye receiving light get damaged over time. There are 4 stages (microaneurysms, blockage in some of the vessels, blockage in more than half of the vessels leading to poor blood supply to the retina, and proliferative – where the body tries to make new blood vessels to replace the damaged ones). It is this last stage that causes loss of vision and is the leading cause blindness in adults aged 20 – 74 in the United States. That is why it is imperative to have an annual exam by an Ophthalmologist. If diabetic retinopathy is found early (before you are even having symptoms), the treatment is much more effective, and why we want you to have an eye exam every year. Check back next week as we discuss putting your best foot forward – why foot exams are important.

- Craig Kopecky, MD

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