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Diabetes and your eyesight

diabetic_visionThe domino effect of diabetes can take its toll on various aspects of your health. How does diabetes affect your eyesight? At some point following diagnosis, many people with diabetes experience changes to their vision. Diabetes (type 1 & 2) can affect the blood supply to the eyes, which may contribute to the development of cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

If you have diabetes, it is really important to have regular eye examinations to monitor your eye health and detect any issues early.

So, what is Diabetic retinopathy you ask? High blood sugar levels can damage the fine blood vessels of the retina, the light sensitive lining at the back of the eye.
This can result in blockages, blood leakage, swelling and inflammation which can all affect your vision.

The condition is called diabetic retinopathy and it happens in two stages:

1.  Non-Proliferative or Background Retinopathy – this is the early stage when vision is not permanently lost but detection is important to prevent the condition worsening. At this stage, the vision may become hazy and straight lines appear squiggly.

2.  Proliferative Retinopathy – this stage is more serious and needs to be treated as soon as possible to prevent serious vision loss. Higher than normal blood glucose levels lead to the growth of new, very fragile blood vessels in the retina. They are more prone to bleeding which can cloud the vision, cause scarring and even lead to retinal detachment.

How can you detect it? Diabetic retinopathy can be detect by your optometrist often before you even experience any symptoms. If you have any of the following conditions, you may need a eye check up:

  • blurred vision
  • blank or missing areas of vision
  • double vision
  • difficulty seeing well at night
  • problems with balance, reading, watching TV and recognising people
  • being sensitive to glare

And what is the treatment? Good management of blood glucose levels may help delay the onset of diabetic retinopathy. But once it has been detected, you may need to see an eey surgeon who will most likely carry out laser treatment. Lasers can be used to kill the newly grown blood vessels in the retina, causing them to clot. The treatment cannot restore lost sight but it is most effective when diabetic retinopathy is in its very early stages, which is why the early detection is important.

Through regular eye examination and adequate diabetes management, nearly all vision loss associated with diabetic retinopathy is preventable. When did you last have your eyes checked?

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