If you’ve lost some of your vision, managing diabetes can be more difficult. These tips and tricks can help make it easier.
Reading the screen on your blood sugar meter and making sure you get the right medication dosage are key parts of managing diabetes. But if you can’t see well, that’s harder to do — something many people with diabetes face because of vision problems brought on by the condition.
People with diabetes are at risk for a complication called diabetic retinopathy, which affects the retina of the eye and can cause poor vision. About 45 percent of people diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of retinopathy, according to the National Eye Institute.
Vision loss makes managing diabetes more difficult, but no less important. You need to constantly stay on top of your diabetes to prevent further eye problems.
“Once you develop eye conditions, it’s an indicator that your diabetes is poorly controlled and may have been for a long time,” says Meenakashi Gupta, MD, an ophthalmologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. But controlling your blood sugar and seeing your eye doctor for regular checkups can help prevent minor eye problems from turning into major ones.
Tips and Tools That Can Help
If you have some vision loss, consider these suggestions to ensure that your diabetes management stays on track:
Get regular eye exams. If you have diabetes, you should have a dilated eye examat least once a year. Your eye doctor should be in touch with your primary care doctor or endocrinologist to be sure that all of your healthcare providers are in sync about managing your diabetes, Dr. Gupta says, because diabetes that’s not well controlled can increase the risk of blindness.
Use magnifiers. If you take medications for your diabetes, you have to be able to see which ones to take and when. Gupta suggests getting a small pocket magnifier to help you read labels. Just don’t buy a magnifier that’s too low in power or so heavy that it’s cumbersome to carry or use.
Go big. Another option for reading pill bottles is to ask your pharmacist to print large labels and to use large type. Some pharmacies provide labels that talk for people who are vision impaired, according to certified diabetes educator Ann Williams, PhD, RN, a research assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. For these “audio” labels, the pharmacist records the information that would normally be written on a medication label. Some talking dispensers also have alarms that sound when it’s time to take the medication.
Try rubber bands. People with diabetes sometimes take long-lasting and rapid insulin, but at different times. To help you differentiate which is which, choose one and wrap a rubber band around it to mark it so you can feel the difference.
Be crafty. Yet another option for marking pill bottles or insulin containers: Paint identifying letters on them with raised fabric paint. You can buy it at a craft supply store, Dr. Williams says.
Get a talking blood sugar meter. There are several options available for a talking blood sugar meter. Just be sure the one you choose does more than announce the results of your blood sugar testing. You need a talking meter that lets you repeat the results if you need to, and one that can easily recall previous results, Williams says.
Use pens instead of vials. If you inject insulin, it may be helpful to use a pen rather than a vial and needle. Insulin pens are pre-measured, making it easier to be certain that you take the appropriate dose.
Order talking books. If you have diabetes, it’s important to learn all you can about managing your disease. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped provides free talking books on any topic to the visually impaired and blind. “Work with a diabetes educator to find out which diabetes books will best meet your needs,” Williams says. The Diabetes Partnership of Cleveland also provides free educational materials in an audio format, with information on its website
Easily measure your food. Sticking to a healthy eating plan is important for controlling your diabetes, Williams says. Try using plates with dividers, which can help control your portions. Spoons, ladles, and scoops that measure a particular size also can be helpful when trying to prepare meals and eat right for diabetes. The American Diabetes Association offers these and a number of other meal-planning tools on its website.
Use your hands to check your feet. If you have diabetes, it’s important to check your feet daily for sores or infections, Williams says. Diabetes can weaken your blood vessels and cause poor circulation, particularly in your limbs. But you don’t have to rely on your eyes for this. Instead, check your feet by feeling with your hands, starting at the big toe and going all the way around to the heel. If you feel something warm or tender, it could indicate a problem that you need to discuss with your doctor.
Work with a diabetes healthcare specialist. If you have vision loss, consider working with a diabetes educator. This specialist can help you address many of the issues you may have because of poor vision. Your eye doctor may also refer you to a low vision specialist if necessary.