Diabetes Martin

Many Australians lose part, or all, of their sight as a result of diabetes.

Sight loss occurs because nearly half of all Australians with diabetes aren’t having regular diabetes eye checks, and some don’t realise that they need to get their eyes checked.

If you have diabetes there is an increased risk of developing eye problems, and if left untreated can lead to blindness.

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Often there aren’t any signs of a vision problem starting – as changes in vision may be so gradual that a person may not notice until it’s too late.

The good news is that most vision loss from diabetes can be prevented with regular eye checks and early treatment. The earlier the treatment, the better the result.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Of the vision problems caused by diabetes – diabetic retinopathy is the most common.

There are around 300,000 Australians who have some degree of diabetic retinopathy and around 65,000 have sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy. 15 years after diagnosis, half of all people with diabetes will develop retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy is where diabetes has caused damage to the blood vessels in the retina at the back of your eyes. The damage can cause bleeding and swelling, leading to partial loss of vision or even blindness.

What are the symptoms?

Diabetic retinopathy can occur without any signs or symptoms in the early stages.

In the later stages you may experience:
• Fluctuating vision – due to fluctuating blood glucose levels
• Patchy field loss from scars caused by damaged blood vessels
• Blurred or distorted vision
• Increased sensitivity to light and glare
• Floaters – from scar tissue, which can pull the retina away from the back of the eye

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes it’s really important to have your vision checked often. This is even more important if you have high blood pressure, a high blood sugar level or a long history of diabetes.

If you experience any changes to your vision, see an optometrist as soon as you can.

How it can affect your life

Patchy vision means that driving can become an issue. Many people also face an increased risk of falls when walking.

You may have trouble reading or watching television.

You could also have more difficulty seeing when there is a lot of glare – for instance on a very sunny day, or near the water.

It is possible to minimise vision loss from diabetic retinopathy, early intervention is critical for the best outcomes.

The key is to make sure you manage your diabetes and have regular eye checks.

Early detection

Diabetic retinopathy is a progressive eye disease, and because the symptoms are not apparent until the disease has advanced, damage caused to the eye and vision is often irreversible.

We recommend that people with diabetes have a comprehensive eye examination at least once every 2 years. Regular eye checks and managing your diabetes can prevent nearly all vision loss associated with diabetic retinopathy.

A diabetes eye health check focuses on looking for early signs of diabetes-related changes in your eyes, such as changes to the blood vessels at the back of your eyes.

Getting a diabetes eye check is easy and you don’t need a referral from your GP.  You can book an appointment directly with an optometrist. When you do, be sure to tell them you have diabetes.

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