About 7% of Australians 25 and older have type 1 or 2 diabetes – and that number rises as we age. Nearly 25% of people over 75 have diabetes. Within 15 years or so of being diagnosed, most people will experience changes to their eyes.
When you have diabetes, there’s a higher risk of having trouble with your eyes. If this is left untreated it can lead to poor vision and blindness. Diabetes is a disease of the circulatory system – and since the eyes are home to a complex network of blood vessels, high blood sugar can cause damage.
98% of serious vision loss can be prevented with regular eye tests and early treatment – so it’s a great reason to keep up those regular eye checks as part of your diabetic management plan. Early detection is always better.
When your blood sugar is high over a long period of time, it can increase the risk of serious eye conditions in people with diabetes, like cataracts, glaucoma and macular oedema. But diabetic retinopathy is the most common ocular condition caused by diabetes.
This affects the retina of the eye (the light sensitive portion at the back of the eye) and is caused by damage to the small blood vessels that nourish the retina. Diabetic retinopathy is a progressive disease – the better the blood sugar control of the diabetic, the less likely the disease is to progress.
It’s worth noting though that anyone who has diabetes (type 1 or type 2) can develop diabetic retinopathy, even if your blood sugar is well-controlled.
Diabetes-related eye complications often have no signs or symptoms right away, and there may be no obvious vision troubles until the condition is quite advanced. It’s highly recommended that you have regular eye exams every 1 to 2 years. Your optometrist will likely dilate your pupils to ensure your they have the best view of your retina.
A healthy lifestyle and the right medication combined with medical check-ups can help keep your blood sugar under control – meaning you’re looking out for your eye health too.