Diabetes can affect the blood vessels at the back of your eye, which can cause serious vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy must be detected and treated early and may require laser treatment.

Does diabetes affect my eyes?

Yes. Of the people with diabetes (and 24% of those older than 75 have diabetes) more than 70% will develop some changes in their eyes within 15 years of their diagnosis. Diabetes can weaken the focusing ability of the eyes. After diabetes has been present for some years, the retina at the back of the eyes may also be affected, a condition called retinopathy.

What types of retinopathy are there?

Non-proliferative retinopathy: Non-proliferative retinopathy involves occasional swelling of the retina, but rarely causes vision loss. It can cause hazy vision where straight lines appear bent. The condition is mild and may not even require treatment.

Proliferative retinopathy: Proliferative retinopathy is serious and requires immediate treatment, often laser surgery. It involves small blood vessels growing on the surface of the retina. These may bleed and cause blindness. Optometrists can recognize signs that this condition might develop and will refer you to an eye surgeon

How do I prevent diabetic retinopathy? Although controlling blood glucose levels significantly reduces the risk of developing retinopathy, it can never eliminate it. People with diabetes are advised to have yearly eye examinations so that retinopathy can be detected and treated as soon as possible. In addition, regular visits to the doctor are recommended to help control blood glucose levels.

Information adapted from Optometrists Association of Australia web site. Used with permission.

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