“[The macula] is the center of the retina, where you have the best vision,” says Daniel S. Casper, MD, PhD, an ophthalmologist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City. It’s the part of the eye that helps you see straight ahead, he adds.
After developing DME, you may have trouble reading books (the letters can appear twisted or misshapen) or seeing the faces of friends and family. Moreover, vision loss can have a serious impact on your quality of life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines vision loss as a cause of disability and a public health problem in the United States.
People who are visually impaired are more likely to have depression and experience a fall than those who don’t have low vision, the agency says. Plus, vision loss can limit a person’s ability to drive, read, manage their finances, and travel.
If you have DME, it’s important not to delay treatment. By taking action right away, it’s possible to prevent further vision loss. Follow this sight-saving advice.
Lower Your Blood Sugar Levels
If you have DME, having high blood sugar can increase your risk of blindness, according to the NEI. Dr. Casper tells people to try to lower their A1C number — a measurement of your average blood sugar level over the past three months — to under 7 percent. (If your A1C is routinely below 6 percent, though, you may need to be monitored for low blood glucose. Consult with your doctor.)
Schedule Regular Eye Appointments
People with diabetes are often advised to see an eye doctor annually. After a DME diagnosis, you may need to go more frequently, depending on the progression of the disease and the status of your A1C.
If your A1C is too high and you have other lifestyle habits (smoking, for example) that speed up the symptom progression, then you may need to schedule a checkup once every few months, says Casper.
Staying active can help improve your all-important A1C level, and the best way to lower your blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity is by doing a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise, according to research published in October 2021 in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism. Shoot for at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity and two days of weight training per week.
Eat a Healthy Diet
When it comes to maintaining or lowering your blood sugar levels, it’s hard to overstate the importance of a healthy diet. The American Diabetes Association recommends a diet full of vegetables, seeds, and nuts.
Control Your Cholesterol and Blood Pressure Levels
According to a study published in October 2019 in the International Journal of Ophthalmology, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels may worsen eye health in people with DME. The American Heart Association defines healthy blood pressure as less than 120/80. Talk to your doctor about your target cholesterol levels.