National Diabetes Week: measures to maintain your eye health if living with diabetes

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

In Australia, one person every five minutes is diagnosed with diabetes - in a single day, that’s 280 people. This year’s National Diabetes Week (12 - 18 July, 2020), we’re calling on Aussies to take a closer look at the impact diabetes has on their eye health and what precautionary measures those who live with diabetes can take to best protect their vision.

Over half of Australians (60%) with type 2 diabetes will develop some form of diabetic eye disease within 20 years of diagnosis, one of which is diabetic retinopathy, which is the leading cause of blindness in working age Australians.

A serious and complex condition that can lead to loss of vision, diabetic retinopathy affects at least 1.7 million Australians, however according to Optometry Australia’s 2020 Vision Index Report, almost half of Australians (49 per cent) have never heard of the disease.

At first, those with diabetic retinopathy might show no symptoms or have mild vision problems. The disease develops progressively and can affect vision in both eyes.

It occurs when blood vessels inside the retina are damaged, causing scar tissue which starts to bleed at the back of the eye. This results in blurred or distorted vision that can, and often does, lead to blindness.

On average one in three people with diabetes will develop an eye disease. As well as diabetic retinopathy, macular oedema is a common condition experienced by people living with diabetes, affecting 72,000 Australians.

Too much blood sugar in a diabetic’s life can damage the retina, causing the blood vessels in the retina to seep fluid or bleed. This leads to swelling or thickening of one’s macular, which if left untreated may cause mild to severe vision loss or blindness.

Whilst diabetes itself does not necessarily lead to blindness, it can trigger the development of conditions that do impact the eyes and good eye health.

Common symptoms of diabetic retinopathy and macular oedema include:

  • Spots or floaters
  • Blurred or fluctuating vision
  • Dark or empty areas in the field of vision

How to prevent diabetic related eye conditions: 

Those who suffer from diabetes need to play an active role in their diabetes management in order to prevent diabetic related eye complications. Diabetics should be aware of their blood sugar levels in order to help prevent diabetic retinopathy and macular oedema. Too much sugar in diabetics’ blood can lead to the blockage of the tiny blood vessels causing the blood vessels to leak.

If you suffer from diabetes, careful management of your eye health is important in order to prevent vision loss. Contact your local optometrist immediately if you are experiencing sudden vision loss or difficulty seeing.

For more information on National Diabetes Week head to their website here.

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