Tips for those with Diabetes Living with Low Vision

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By : dLife Editors

Did you know that diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among working-age adults?

More than 8 million Americans have it. The disease is expected to increase by 35 percent by 2032. This condition, which can be caused by both type 1 or type 2 diabetes, occurs when diabetes damages the small blood vessels that nourish tissue and nerve cells in the retina.

In its early stages, blood vessels that nourish the eye become weak, blocked or damaged. In the advanced stage, the retina triggers the development of new blood vessels, which grow abnormally and subsequently rupture and bleed, causing hemorrhages in the retina.

There is no cure for diabetic retinopathy, but it can be treated with laser and with several injectable drugs. The Hadley School for the Blind, the largest provider of distance education for people who are blind or visually impaired worldwide, offers the following tips for living well with this disease:

Make the Kitchen User-Friendly

It’s a good idea to have two different cutting boards – a light colored one and another that’s darker. This will allow you to choose a background color that contrasts with the color of the food you’re working with. So, slice white onion or mozzarella cheese on the dark surface, and carrots or green peppers on the light colored board.

Be Careful When Cooking

When putting a pan on a burner, make it a habit to move the panhandle over the counter. It’s also a good idea to point it in a consistent direction.

Make Kitchen Tasks Simpler

For example: When you’re cooking with spices, don’t add spices by shaking them over the mixed ingredients, because once you add too much, they can’t be removed. Instead, shake spices into your palm and pinch the amount that you want. You can always add more.

Use Tactile Marking

When marking a microwave keypad with tactile dots, put one dot on each number – but add an extra dot on the number five. Since the five button is in the middle, the double dot will let you identify it, so you can use it to figure out where the other numbers are around it.

Position Lights to Help Guide You

The direction that the light is coming from is just as important as the source. A lamp with a gooseneck or an adjustable swing arm will help you to position it right where you need the light. Remember, whatever you use, make sure it’s completely shaded, so no light is directed in your eyes making it difficult to see the object.

Use Sounds to Help Get Around the House

Every place in your home where sound can be heard is a great landmark for the room. Constant sounds like a ticking clock are a great way to tell where you are. Other less dependable sounds like the traffic on the street can tell you where the windows are, your television can let you know where the living room is, and the intermittent motor hum of your refrigerator can always point you towards your kitchen.

Mark Your Beauty Products

For example, to mark your shampoo and conditioner, think about it this way: When you’re washing your hair, you use the shampoo first, and the conditioner second. To mark them, just put one rubber band around the shampoo, and then two rubber bands around the conditioner. It’s a simple concept – the container used first gets one mark, and the second gets two.

Keep Your Prescriptions in Order

Open your pill bottles over a tray or baking sheet lined with dark colored felt. If you drop a pill, it won’t bounce on the floor and it will be easier to see.

Use Caution Going Out for a Meal

When reaching for glassware, move your hand “low and slow” and keep your hand close to the table to locate the base of the glass.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

A sighted guide is someone who has enough vision to help you get from one place to another safely. You will hold onto their upper arm with your hand so both of you maintain physical contact as you walk. When you’re approaching obstacles or changes in your path like doorways, stairs, or sidewalk curbs, it’s the sighted guide’s job to give you verbal and physical information to keep you aware of the surroundings.

Content provided by Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Updated by dLife Editors 1/19.