Do you have diabetes?

Did you know that it’s really important to look after your eyes when you have diabetes?

It’s important because people who have diabetes are at an increased risk of poor vision and sometimes blindness!

Almost everyone with Type 1 diabetes, and more than 60% of those with Type 2 diabetes will develop some form of diabetic eye disease within 20 years of their diagnosis.

Often, there aren’t any signs or symptoms – and the changes in vision can be so gradual that they’re not noticed.

If you have diabetes having regular eye checks means that most vision loss can be prevented. And the earlier the treatment is started, the better the result.

How does diabetes affect eyes?

High blood glucose levels can cause changes in the shape of the lens of your eye which can temporarily cause blurring of your vision. This often happens before being diagnosed with diabetes, or when diabetes isn’t managed well.

The blurriness usually disappears when blood glucose levels are reduced through appropriate treatment. If you are getting new glasses make sure your blood glucose levels are within the recommended range.

High blood glucose levels for long periods of time can increase the risk of more serious eye problems in people with diabetes, including:

  • Retinopathy
  • Cataracts
  • Macular Oedema
  • Glaucoma
Why is it important to have eye checks?

The most common problem caused by diabetes is Diabetic Retinopathy (DR). This is where the blood vessels in the back of the eye are damaged causing vision loss.

DR doesn’t have symptoms in it’s early stages, so you won’t know you have it.

As it develops, you may start to have blurry, hazy, or double vision or you may even experience the sudden loss of vision.

The only way to know if you have Diabetic Retinopathy is to have a diabetes eye health check. Getting a check is easy and you don’t need a GP referral, just pick up the phone or book online. Make sure to tell them that you have diabetes and you’d like your eyes checked for any damage that the disease may have caused.

What does a diabetes eye check involve?

This check looks for early signs of diabetes-related changes, especially changes in the blood vessels at the back of your eyes.

The optometrist will check for these changes by taking a photo of the back of your eye and then examine your eyes and the photo to check for any damage. The check only takes about 30 minutes.

Sometimes you may be given eye drops so that the optometrist can see the back of your eye. The drops can leave you sensitive to light, so bring your sunglasses and set aside extra time as you may have to wait a while for your vision to return to normal, or you can ask someone else to drive you.

If there are any signs of damage, your optometrist will either monitor it, or arrange treatment with an ophthalmologist.

What happens if eye disease is detected and you need treatment?

The optometrist will let you know the treatment options.

In the early stages, treatment may not be needed, but you will likely be asked to have eye health checks more frequently to monitor the disease.

You can slow progression of diabetic eye disease by keeping your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol as close to target as possible.

How to care for your eyes

As soon as you are diagnosed with diabetes get an eye examination by an optometrist. The frequency needed for future examinations will vary, your optometrist will let you know how often you’ll need to schedule your checks.

• If you smoke, stop.
• Get regular physical activity
• Eat healthy to better manage your blood glucose levels.
• Always take your medications as instructed by your doctor.

Most eye complications can be treated successfully if detected early. Early detection and treatment can also prevent eye complications from getting worse. However, treatment generally cannot restore vision once it has been lost.

Regular eye examinations and early treatment are therefore important to prevent vision loss.

If you notice any changes in your vision notify your optometrist immediately