Diabetes and Vision - What You Need to Know

Patients with diabetes need to take extra good care of their eyes. Regular eye tests with a special focus on reducing diabetic risk factors are essential for maintaining good lifelong eye health.  We’ve addressed below the most common questions we hear in our practice about diabetes and your eyes.

Can diabetes affect your vision?

Blurred vision and diabetes
As a diabetic, annual eye tests are recommended, even if you feel your vision hasn't changed.

Definitely. Healthy eyes need a good blood supply.  Diabetes compromises blood circulation and can cause serious damage to the retina (a condition called diabetic retinopathy).  That’s why it is so important for all diabetics to include an optometrist in their health professional team. Early diagnosis, reducing risk factors and ongoing treatment are all key to preventing complications.  We recommend annual eye checks for all diabetics. Even if you don’t feel that your eyes have changed since your last test, it is important to have the health of your eyes reviewed regularly.

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetes and change in vision
If you are a diabetic and experience changes in your vision, make an appointment as soon as possible.

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that affects your eyes and is characterised by damage to the blood vessels at the back of the eye (the retina).  You may not see symptoms early on, but the longer you have diabetes and/or the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely it is that you will develop this complication.

If you are diabetic and have experienced the following, it is very important to make an appointment as soon as possible:

  • Spots in your vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Impaired colour vision
  • Dark areas in your vision
  • Loss of vision

What other eye issues may I experience as a diabetic?

Diabetes management
There are a range of eye complications diabetics may experience

It’s possible that you could experience other eye issues as a complication of your diabetic retinopathy.  These could include:

  • Vitreous haemorrhage – when the blood vessels bleed into the substance in the centre of your eye.
  • Retinal detachment – when abnormal blood vessels stimulate scar tissue growth, pulling the retina away from the back of the eye.
  • Glaucoma – when new blood vessels grow at the front part of your eye, causing pressure that may damage nerves.

You may also experience blurry or fluctuating vision as a result of poorly managed blood sugar levels or be more prone to cataracts.

As some of these conditions can lead to blindness you obviously want to do all you can to avoid these complications. This is the reason that regular eye testing for diabetics is so important.

How can I reduce my diabetic risk factors for optimal eye health?

Diabetes risk factor - diet
Reducing risk factors for diabetes in general may make a big difference in eye health outcomes

Managing diabetes and reducing risk factors can make a big difference in eye health outcomes for diabetics.  Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet and taking your medication as directed contribute to maintaining your eye health.

Keeping your blood sugar levels in check and watching your blood pressure and cholesterol will all reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.

From an eye perspective, paying attention to your vision will mean that you can notice and act upon changes quickly.  If you experience sudden changes in your vision, if you see spots or find things blurry make an appointment with us as soon as possible.

Can diabetes cause blindness?

Diabetes and eye tests
Diabetes can lead to blindness, but it certainly doesn't have to

Diabetes can lead to blindness, but it certainly doesn’t have to.  Vigilance with early and ongoing management and reducing risk factors allows for the best possible outcomes.  If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, book an appointment today with one of our professional optometrists for a thorough examination of your eyes.

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