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How Diabetes Can Affect Your Eyesight

It is estimated that more than 1 in 16 people living in the UK has diabetes; whether they are diagnosed or not.

Although diabetes can affect anyone of any age, it is more common amongst those who are aged 40 and over.

Diabetes is a condition caused by an underproduction of insulin or the body's inability to use the insulin to process sugar.

Diabetes can be symptomatic in the early stages or go undiagnosed for a long time.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy & What are The Symptoms?

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes and affects the blood vessels that supply the retina – the seeing part of the eye.

These vessels can become blocked, leaky or grow haphazardly. This can stop light from passing through the retina, ultimately damaging your vision.

It can cause blindness if left undiagnosed and untreated, however, it usually takes several years for diabetic retinopathy to reach a stage where it could threaten your sight.

According to research from Diabetes UK, diabetes is the leading cause of preventable sight loss in the UK; with diabetic retinopathy accounting for around 7% of all people who are registered blind in England and Wales.

Typically, you won’t notice diabetic retinopathy in the very early stages, as obvious symptoms don’t tend to appear until it’s more advanced.

Examples of advanced symptoms can include:

  • Gradually worsening vision

  • Sudden vision loss

  • Floaters (shapes floating in your field of vision)

  • Blurred or patchy vision

  • Eye pain or redness

In order to combat and prevent diabetic retinopathy, there is a national diabetic eye screening programme in the UK. Everyone diagnosed with diabetes is signed up to this, and the screening takes place at nominated centres across the UK.

Are You at Risk of Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy can affect anyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes; however, you are at greater risk if you:

  • Have had diabetes for a long time,

  • Have a persistently high blood sugar level

  • Have high blood pressure

  • Have high cholesterol

  • Are pregnant

  • Are of Asian or Afro-Caribbean background

Can Retinopathy Be Reversed?

There are treatments available which focus on slowing and stopping the progression of the disease to preserve the vision you have left. If you catch it and intervene early enough, you can prevent diabetic retinopathy from severely damaging your vision. That’s why it is vital to have regular eye tests.

There are measures you can take to reduce your risk of diabetic retinopathy, these are:

  • Controlling your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels

  • Taking your diabetes medication as prescribed

  • Attending all screening appointments

  • Getting medical advice quickly if you notice any changes to your vision

  • Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a heathy balanced diet, and exercising regularly.

Our Role

At Kelly Eyecare, we use a new, highly advanced, and painless screening system called Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) to examine your eyes more carefully and in greater depth.

This state-of-the-art scanning technology goes beneath the surface of the retina and shows us the component layers in high resolution.

Some patients come in for an eye test and show early signs of diabetes without even knowing it. Early signs include fluctuations in their vision, frequent changes to their prescription and sometimes diabetic retinopathy.

In these scenarios, we recommend that the patient visits their GP for further checks and diagnosis.

If you have noticed a change in your eyesight, please contact us today to book an appointment with our friendly and professional team.

For more information on diabetes and diabetic retinopathy, please visit the NHS website and Diabetes UK.


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