Type 2 diabetes Diabetes focus: eye health February 16 2016
Karen Makin Author Karen Makin Bupa optician

Living with type 2 diabetes can increase your risk of developing diabetes related eye problems. Learn more about how diabetes and eyes are related and how to identify symptoms before it’s too late.

There is a link between diabetes and eyes. People with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of developing eye problems 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 on both your diabetes and eyes. 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 eye problems in people with diabetes, including cataracts, glaucoma and macular oedema, which result in cloudy or decreased vision. But by far the most common diabetes related eye problem 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 on 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.
Woman getting an eye test

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 poor management that causes complications to occur with diabetes and eyes. 
Type 2 diabetes that is not managed can ultimately lead to serious eye problems as a result of diabetes like diabetic retinopathy. But taking actions to manage your diabetes and eye health, 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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Karen Makin Author Karen Makin Bupa optician Karen is the Optometric Services Manager for Bupa Optical.