Diabetes focus: eye health
Living with type two diabetes can increase your risk of developing vision problems and often there are no symptoms until it’s too late.
People with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of developing eye complications which, if left untreated, can lead to impaired vision and blindness. Because diabetes is a condition that affects blood vessels all through the body, and the eyes are home to a complex network of small blood vessels, high blood glucose levels can wreak havoc. The good news is that in many cases serious vision loss can be prevented with regular eye examinations and early treatment.
Common eye conditions
Persistent high blood glucose levels can increase the risk of serious eye conditions
in people with diabetes, including cataracts, glaucoma and macular oedema, which result in cloudy or decreased vision
. But by far the most common vision-related side effect of diabetes is diabetic retinopathy where damage to the small blood vessels in the eye causes blindness.
This occurs when high blood glucose levels lead to blood flow changes in the small blood vessels in the back of the eye, reducing oxygen supply to the retinal area. New blood vessels may then form in the retina and grow into other parts of the eye, which can cause damage and ultimately, vision loss.
Diabetes eye care
Often there are no signs or symptoms in the early stages of eye complications among people with type 2 diabetes and there may be no obvious vision troubles until the condition is quite advanced. To monitor your eye health and identify vision-related complications of diabetes before they become serious, you should have an eye test
with your optometrist or ophthalmologist (specialist eye doctor) at least once a year. This check would usually involve dilation of the pupils to see inside the eyes and ensure everything is okay. If changes are picked up early, they can be monitored and your eye specialist can start treatment.
If you notice any changes in your vision, such as poor night vision, sensitivity to light and glare, or blurry, blocked or dim vision, it’s important to make an appointment with your optometrist as soon as possible.
A healthy lifestyle
As with all things related to diabetes, maintaining a healthy lifestyle with physical activity and a healthy diet, keeping up with any medications, and having the required check-ups at the right times will help manage your blood glucose levels and, in turn, look after your eye health. It is usually when diabetes is not managed that complications occur.
Type 2 diabetes that is not managed can ultimately lead to serious conditions that affect vision like diabetic retinopathy. But taking actions to manage your diabetes, including popping in for an eye examination at least once a year, is an investment not only in your overall wellbeing, but also in your vision now and into the future.
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