Long term high blood glucose levels can damage the eyes. With regular effective eye screening, eye complications can be caught early and successfully treated and managed by an eye doctor. You should have retinopathy tests regularly.
If you have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes please freephone 1800 45 45 55 to check if you are on the Diabetic RetinaScreen register. If you are not your GP (family doctor) can register you by ringing 1800 45 45 55.
The retina can be compared to a camera film the area where the picture of the surrounding world is generated. The small blood vessels, which feed the retina, may be affected by diabetes. In the early stages, small vessels may close down, and become leaky. Small bleeding points can be seen on the retina. As the condition progresses, some parts of the eye are left without enough blood. Over time, new vessels develop to overcome this, but they are fragile and tend to bleed. If retinal disease is not detected and treated early, the retina can actually come away from the back of the eye, and vision is lost completely.
Diabetes and your Eyes
When your diabetes was first diagnosed you may have had blurred vision because of high blood sugar levels. It is not appropriate to change your glasses until your blood sugar is stabilized, as the prescription will continue to change until the diabetes is under control.
Eye complications can be limited by keeping your blood sugar and blood pressure within your target range. You will not feel the early changes of eye complications, so it is important that they are detected in good time. Regular check-ups allow your eyes to be monitored and detect problems early, so they can be treated.
When diabetes affects the small blood vessels supplying the back of the eye (the retina), your vision can be affected. Eye conditions called ‘cataracts’ and ‘glaucoma’ are more likely when you have diabetes.
What is Retinopathy?
Diabetic Retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and is the leading cause of blindness in working age adults. Diabetic Retinopathy is the name used for different types of changes in the retina (which is the back of your eye) which can affect your sight, these include:
• Diabetic Macular Edema – this is where leaky blood vessels affect the important central part of the retina called the macula (the part of the eye responsible for detailed central vision). Diabetic macular edema is the more common type of eye change
• Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy – this is where fragile new blood vessels form gradually on the surface of the retina over time.
In the early stages, diabetic retinopathy will not affect the sight, but if the changes get worse, eventually the sight will be affected.
Diabetic Retinopathy and Eye Screening
The good news is that with regular and effective eye screening, both diabetic macular edema and proliferative diabetic retinopathy can be caught early and successfully treated and managed by an eye doctor. The National Diabetic Retina Screening Programme, ‘Diabetic RetinaScreen’ offers free, regular diabetic retinopathy screening to all people with diabetes, aged 12 and older.
Through the programme, people who are registered are invited to attend an eye screening. When you get the letter of invitation, you need to call the Freephone number listed on their letter to make an appointment.
If you have diabetes, attending for regular eye screening appointments will significantly improve your chances of avoiding eye problems in the future. This will go a long way to maintaining healthy eyes and preventing vision loss in people with diabetes.
For more Information on Diabetic Retinopathy & Eye Screening click HERE.
Clouding of the lens of the eye, or ‘cataracts’ may make you feel like you are looking at the world through frosted glass. People with diabetes may develop cataracts earlier than those without diabetes. The development of a cataract can be monitored, and you may be prescribed a change in glasses to maintain good vision. If your cataract interferes with daily activities, you can be referred to an eye surgeon who may recommend surgery.
Glaucoma is an eye disease in which the passages that allow fluid in the eye to drain become blocked. For some people, the only symptom may be intermittent headaches, so it is important to have regular eye examinations in order to detect glaucoma early. For people at risk it is important to have annual eye examinations (which are different from retinopathy screening). Glaucoma cannot be prevented, but if diagnosed and treated early, it can be controlled. It is generally treated with eye drops or pills to lower pressure inside the eye. In some cases, laser treatment or surgery may be effective in reducing eye pressure.