Diabetes is an increasing health problem. The number of people diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled in the last 20 years and now more than one in every 15 people in the UK are diabetic. This is around 4.7 million people, and it is estimated that there are many more people – several hundred thousand-who have undiagnosed diabetes.
At Rawlings Opticians, our optometrists are all trained to pick up eye changes caused by diabetes.
In the eye, diabetes affects the delicate blood vessels that feed the light sensitive layer at the back of the eye (the retina). In fact it is common for diabetes to be first noticed during an eye exam, either because of unusual glasses prescription changes or because of leakage of blood vessels in the retina. Once diagnosed as diabetic, regular eye checks are very important because if the blood vessels become too leaky, early treatment is needed to prevent permanent sight loss. For this reason there is a screening service in England whereby all diabetics have a yearly photograph taken which is examined by trained observers to look for signs of diabetic eye disease. In addition to this, diabetics should ensure they have regular eye examinations at an opticians. This is important to ensure that vision is optimal and also because it is important to check for other eye conditions in addition to diabetic eye disease.
In addition to diabetic eye disease, people with diabetes have an increased risk of cataracts, glaucoma, and macula disease. More than 1700 people every year suffer permanent sight loss due to diabetes.
Are you diabetic?
How you can help yourself:
- Get your eyes checked regularly – do not miss your screening appointment or eye tests
- NHS eye tests for diabetics are free every 2 years (or more often if clinically necessary)
- Upgrade your eye exam to include an OCT scan for the most detailed health check of your eyes (Read our blog for more information about the importance OCT scans for diabetics.)
- Spot changes to your eyesight – if you notice any change, see your optometrist
- Know your blood sugar levels – tight control of blood sugars is vital so test yourself at home
- Know your blood pressure and cholesterol – high blood pressure or cholesterol make eye problems more likely
- Make healthy lifestyle choices – a nutritious balanced diet is very important. The website diabetes.org.uk has detailed dietary advice and lots of other useful information.