A progressive eye disease called retinopathy is especially prevalent among diabetics. It causes blurry vision and in some cases blindness. In this week's Dealing with Diabetes report, see how other risk factors can add to the dangerous equation.
Retinopathy results from damage to the small blood vessels of the retina in the back of the eye. Las Vegas ophthalmologist, Russell Jayne says diabetes brings on retinopathy by a couple of means.
"There are two major issues in patients with diabetes and retinopathy. One is the level of the blood sugars. So the higher the blood sugar, the more likely they are to develop retinopathy. And the second is the duration of the diabetes," Dr. Jayne said.
Other factors also add to risk of retinopathy including hypertension; high cholesterol; and the most avoidable of all -- smoking.
Dr. Jayne says, "The smoking affects the integrity of the blood vessels as does the diabetes. And so anytime you have one problem with the blood vessels and you develop a second problem with them, that effects the circulation to the retina at the back of the eye."
Diabetic, Joe Kooyman used to smoke 4 packs of cigarettes a day. He kicked the habit several years ago and believes he'd been much worse off if he hadn't. He strongly encourages other diabetics to quit, whatever it takes.
"Try anything that works. I went cold turkey. That's the way to go. These artificial cigarettes and patches -- it has to be on your own time and own mind to say I quit!" Joe says.
Dr. Jayne adds, "Every single study that's been done has shown us that patients that have diabetes that take good care of themselves, control their blood sugars, in the long run do much better that patients who don't."
Not all risk factors for diabetic retinopathy can be controlled, including family history and kidney disease.
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