You are at higher risk of developing eye problems, also known as Diabetic Retinopathy, if you have diabetes. Retinopathy is the damage to the retina in your eyes, which can cause vision impairment or loss. There are lots of important blood vessels in your eyes. These vessels help supply blood to the retina, the light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye, which helps you to see. When these blood vessels are damaged; they can get blocked, leak or grow randomly. This means the retina can’t get the blood it needs and so can’t work properly. Therefore you won’t be able to see properly.
There may be no pain or symptoms, some people may not notice any changes in their vision, until the later stages of diabetic retinopathy. Almost all people with Type 1 diabetes and most with Type 2 diabetes will suffer from non-proliferative retinopathy at some point in their lives. This is why people with diabetes should have a comprehensive eye exam, by an eye care professional, at least once a year.
Other eye problems
Glaucoma – This is when the pressure builds up inside the eye, which can decrease the blood flow to the retina and optic nerve, causing damage. Over time, if left untreated, glaucoma can lead to vision loss. The likelihood of developing glaucoma increases the longer someone has had diabetes. The risk also increases with age.
Cataracts – People with cataract have a cloudy lens which partially or completely blocks the light making it hard to see at night.
How is it treated?
Keeping eyes healthy for as long as possible means keeping blood glucose levels within the target range. This also includes staying healthy and having a comprehensive eye examination at least once a year.
Treatment is needed such as laser surgery or there’s a high risk of sight loss. Therefore the type of treatment will depend on how advanced the damage is.
Steps to can take
- Keep blood glucose levels within the target range.
- Have a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year.
- Talk to the diabetes healthcare team if you have any concerns. Early detection is vital in preventing sight loss.