Diabetes is a common disease and has important implications for the short-term and long-term health of sufferers. This section will tell you more about diabetes and how it affects the eye.
Effects of Diabetes
Fluctuations in blood sugar can cause changes in the focussing of the crystalline lens within the eye and cause temporary visual blurring, particularly if diabetic control is poor. Diabetes can also cause cataracts in young people, or accelerate the development of cataracts in older people.
Diabetic retinopathy is one of the commonest causes of blindness in the UK in people between the ages of 30-65 and 12% of people who are registered blind and partially sighted each year have diabetic eye disease. At any one time up to 10% of people with diabetes will have retinopathy requiring medical follow up or treatment.
Diabetes can also affect other organs and the presence and severity of retinopathy may be an indicator of increased risk of other complications of diabetes such as ischaemic heart disease, kidney disease or diabetic neuropathy (which contributes to male impotence and diabetic foot disease).
Can I Prevent the Development of Retinopathy?
Tight control of diabetes can reduce the risk of retinopathy by 60% in type I (insulin dependent) and 40% in type II (non-insulin dependent) diabetes and will also reduce the risk of other diabetic complications.
Although the majority of people with diabetes who have had diabetes for long enough will have some degree of retinopathy, eye checks will enable early diagnosis and early treatment. When people first develop diabetic retinopathy they have no symptoms, but if diagnosed at this early stage, it is a treatable condition, which is why it is important for diabetics to have regular eye tests.
When should I have my Eyes Examined?
People with diabetes need to have their eyes examined at diagnosis and yearly thereafter by their diabetic specialist, ophthalmologist or optician. Sight tests are free for people with diabetes.