Diabetes and Your Sight

Who can develop diabetic eye disease?

Anyone with diabetes can develop diabetic eye disease, but your risk is greater if you have high blood pressure or high blood glucose that is left untreated over a long period. You are also increasing your risk if you have high blood cholesterol and/or are a smoker.

How does diabetes affect my eyes?

If your blood glucose levels are out of control and fluctuating, one of the problems you can experience is varying amounts of blurred vision, sometimes on a daily basis. This is important to get checked, especially if you’re driving. But more seriously, diabetes can damage your retina when your blood glucose is too high. This is because the retina needs a constant supply of blood, which it receives through a network of tiny blood vessels and over time, a persistently high blood sugar level can damage these blood vessels and even cause blindness.

What types of eye problems are caused by diabetes?

There are four main problems:

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss in people with diabetes and up to a third of diabetics over the age of 40 show some signs of the disease.

In early diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels can weaken, bulge, or leak into the retina. This stage is called non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

If the disease gets worse, some blood vessels close off, which causes new, weaker blood vessels to grow on the surface of the retina, which can cause serious vision problems. This stage is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

Fortunately, finding and treating diabetic retinopathy early can reduce the risk of blindness by up to 95 percent.

Diabetic macular oedema

Diabetic macular oedema is a swelling in the macula – the functional centre of the retina and the part that gives us the ability to see 20/20 and provides the best colour vision. Over time, this disease can destroy the sharp vision in this part of the eye, leading to partial vision loss or blindness. Macular oedema usually develops in people who already have other signs of diabetic retinopathy.

Glaucoma

If you have diabetes you are at twice the risk of developing glaucoma. Ask at your next appointment in branch for more information on glaucoma.

Cataracts

Cataracts occur when the lens in your eye develops cloudy patches which cause blurry, misty vision and, if left untreated, blindness

People with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts and to do so at an earlier age:  It is believed that high glucose levels cause deposits to build up in the eye’s lens.

I have diabetes – should I be worried?

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness in adults in the UK. However, if you are keeping your blood sugar levels under control then there is no real need to be any more concerned than usual about your eyesight. You should always visit your optician regularly, though, as in the majority of cases problems picked up early can be stopped from progressing and sight can be saved.

If you feel concerned about your eye health please contact your local Patrick and Menzies branch.