Diabetes and Vision Loss

A Guide to Caring for Yourself When You Have Vision Loss

By Ann S. Williams, Ph.D., RN, CDE

Listen to Living with Diabetes and Visual Impairment—General Information Audio

Diabetes care is almost entirely managed by the person who has it. If you've lived with diabetes for any length of time, then you know there's no negotiating its demands. Day after day, you alone determine when and what to eat and how much to exercise. It's up to you to remember when to take your medication, how often to check your blood glucose level, and what to do if your blood sugar levels are too high or too low.

Successful management of diabetes—even under the most ideal circumstances—requires great discipline, not to mention specific knowledge, skills, and tools for self-care. When vision loss enters the picture—as it frequently does as the disease advances—there's yet another level of complication and risk added to your treatment regimen.

Perhaps you're one of the 3.2 million Americans now living with both conditions—an occurrence that will grow even more common as the nation's retirement-aged population increases. If so, then you've also had to confront the frustrating fact that almost all diabetes equipment is still designed with the assumption that the user will be able to see enough detail to use it properly. Regular and small print are standard for diabetes-related information, equipment instructions, and prescription labels.

The good news is that, for the last 20 years, many diabetes care professionals, equipment manufacturers, and people with visual impairment have been working tirelessly to address these challenges. The result is that, today, there are more viable, accessible resources and techniques to help people with visual impairments manage their diabetes than ever before.

Innovations in Self-Care

The American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) has developed and copyrighted the AADE 7 Self-Care Behaviors™, a set of lifestyle changes that are necessary to manage diabetes effectively. In this section, you will find a helpful overview of these behaviors, along with information on how they can be adapted to address the onset of vision loss. The AADE 7 include:

In addition to these articles, you will also find a list of general diabetes resources.

Personal Stories

  • Vivian: Living with Diabetes and Visual Impairment
    Vivian was diagnosed with diabetes twenty years ago, at age 58. Ten years later, she was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy and spinal stenosis. She talks about how she is living and coping with her diabetes and some of the tools and techniques she uses.

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