This year World Diabetes Day will be marked on Wednesday 14th November, with the aim of raising awareness of the disease affecting millions of people around the world. As the day approaches, it’s the ideal time to make sure you are aware of the warning signs of diabetes and how it can affect your eyes.
Diabetes is a metabolic disease where a person’s body is unable to either produce insulin, produce sufficient insulin or use insulin effectively. Every cell in the body depends on sugar (glucose) for energy and insulin is responsible for breaking down and transporting sugar to every cell.
Without sufficient insulin to break the sugar down, the levels will rise in your blood. This is referred to as hyperglycaemia, which can have a negative impact on your body and affect your eyes.
One of the first warning signs of diabetes is blurred vision, this is caused by fluid leaking into the lens of your eye, causing it to swell and alter its shape. This can make it difficult to focus, so you may begin to notice everything looking fuzzy.
Blurred vision has also been known to occur when beginning your insulin treatment, but usually settles after a number of weeks, once your blood sugar levels are stable.
Some diabetics can experience retinal disorders known as diabetic retinopathy, which in some cases can include proliferative retinopathy and macular edema.
Proliferative retinopathy causes your blood vessels to leak into the centre of your eye and cause blurry vision, floaters, spots and difficulty with your eyesight in the dark.
As the name suggests, Macular Edema is about how your macula is affected, which is essential for sharp central vision. Symptoms include leaking fluid causing the macula to swell up, colour changes and wavy vision.
In addition to diabetic retinopathy, high blood sugar can also lead to glaucoma and cataracts, which happen more frequently and sooner if you are diabetic.
Taking Extra Care
When at risk of blurred vision, it’s always good to take extra care of your eyes.
The following tips are recommended for diabetics looking to maintain a good eye care routine:
- Keeping Bloods in Check
When you’re diabetic and have high blood pressure, it makes it all the more
important to keep your health in check. Always ask during doctors’ appointments for a blood pressure check and note that for diabetics this should be below 140/90.
Also keep your blood sugar levels in check, as if they are too high it can put the
blood vessels in your retina at risk of damage.
- Cholesterol Levels
A simple blood test can determine how much LDL and HDL cholesterol you have. Carrying too much LDL has previously been linked to blood vessel damage.
- Optician Appointments
Schedule yearly* appointments with your optician to examine your eyes for
any potential problems that can be treated earlier rather than later. Inform your optician that you have diabetes, so they can be more conscious of what they need to check to keep your health in order.
Most often your eye doctor will use drops to dilate your pupils, to allow them
to check for early signs of blood vessel damage in your eyes.
- Daily Diet
Lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables are really beneficial to
incorporate into your diet. There is always advice on offer from nutritionists and doctors if you are struggling to changing your daily eating habits.
- Quit Smoking
Smoking is already an unhealthy habit with lots of side effects, including
causing problems with your blood vessels. When trying to protect your eyesight as a diabetic, it’s important to keep your blood vessels as safe as you possibly can. It can be challenging to quit smoking, but it will always be for the better and support groups and doctors advice is always available.
At Tunnell’s we employ the latest technology and qualified optical professionals, to care for all aspects of your vision. If you do have diabetes you are at risk of numerous eye problems, making eye care all the more important. If you begin to notice any of the symptoms above, please get in touch with your optician or doctor as soon as possible.
*If you visit a diabetic clinic yearly for retinopathy, then an eye examination is only required every two years.