It’s important for everyone to take good care of their eyes, but if you have diabetes, good eye care is essential. This is because diabetes increases the risk of eye conditions and is actually the leading cause of blindness in adults aged under 75 years old.
Diabetes and eye health
Although diabetes is the leading cause of adult blindness, most people with diabetes suffer from minor complications, if they have any problems with their eyes at all. That said, eye care is extremely important and all patients with diabetes are encouraged to have regular eye tests and to attend routine health check-ups on a frequent basis.
Complications that can result from diabetes include:
Glaucoma is caused by a build-up of pressure in the eye and it result in blindness. People who have diabetes are up to 40 per cent more likely to develop glaucoma than those without diabetes and the longer you have the condition, the greater the risk. Possible treatment options for glaucoma include surgery and treatment to decrease pressure in the eye.
Cataracts are fairly common and tend to affect older people; you don’t have to have diabetes to get cataracts, but if you do have diabetes, you have a 60 per cent higher risk than people who don’t have diabetes. Cataracts cause the lens of the eye to become very cloudy, which reduces vision. Surgery is commonly performed to remove cataracts and treatment is usually very successful.
Diabetic retinopathy is a term used to describe issues that affect the retina in patients with diabetes. The longer you have diabetes, the higher the risk of retinopathy; other risk factors include genetics, poor blood sugar control and changes in blood pressure. The impact of diabetes can be mild, moderate or severe. Often, it can take time for symptoms to become apparent and this is why regular eye checks are so important.
Eye care for diabetics
Anyone who has diabetes, ether type 1 or type 2, should take precautions to try and reduce the risk of eye problems and protect the eyes from damage. With diabetes, it’s usually necessary to make changes to your diet and your general lifestyle and most patients are advised to see their healthcare team on a regular basis.
Here are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing eye complications:
- keep up to date with eye checks
- see your doctor if you experience changes in your vision, loss of vision or symptoms such as blurred vision
- take care to control your blood sugar levels, by following your doctor’s instructions, taking medication properly and keeping an eye on your diet
- keep an eye on your blood pressure; changes in blood pressure, particularly increased blood pressure, can affect vision and if you have diabetes as well as high blood pressure, this can be particularly dangerous for the eyes
- make healthy lifestyle choices; exercise on a regular basis, eat a healthy diet and avoid smoking and drinking alcohol excessively
When do I need to see a doctor?
In addition to regular routine appointments at diabetes clinics, it’s also advisable to see your doctor or consult your healthcare team if you experience symptoms such as:
- blurred vision
- double vision
- black spots
- loss of vision