Diabetic eye disease, or Diabetic Retinopathy, is a complication of diabetes which occurs when the tiny blood vessels inside the retina are damaged. The retina is the surface at the back of the eye that receives light from everything we see. A healthy retina is essential for good vision. Having high blood glucose and high blood pressure for a long time can damage the tiny blood vessels in the eye. This can cause bleeding and swelling in the retina, which seriously affects vision, in some cases causing blindness. In fact, diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss in people of working age in Australia.1
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
As problems with the retina worsen, blurry or double vision may occur. Rings, flashing lights, black spots or floating spots may be seen or almost total darkness. An optometrist should be called immediately if any of these are experienced or if there is a sudden change in vision.
Diabetes is the condition where the body is unable to use glucose effectively because it is not making enough insulin or the insulin is not working properly. Insulin moves glucose from the blood into the body’s cells where it can be used for energy. Regular exercise, a healthy diet and avoidance of smoking lower the risk of developing diabetes.
Diabetic patients, however, need to keep their blood glucose and blood pressure as close to normal as possible in order to help prevent diabetic eye problems. They should consult with their optometrist, GP and other health-care professionals involved in their diabetes care over the frequency of eye examination required to protect their vision.
As a very minimum, it is recommended to have an optometrist examine a diabetic’s eyes every two years even if vision seems to be all right. More frequent eye testing is advised, though, without waiting for symptoms to appear. Finding eye problems early and getting prompt treatment will help prevent more serious problems later.
Are you diabetic and concerned about protecting your eyesight? Call now for your full eye examination with our Optometrist to prevent Diabetic Retinopathy from robbing you of your eyesight.
1. Vision Australia Fact Sheet on Diabetic Retinopathy