The College of Optometrists is urging the public not to forget the detrimental effect that diabetes can have on eyes.
Marking Diabetes Awareness Week, the College is warning that diabetes can cause significant complications with eye health and diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in people of working age in the UK.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when blood sugar levels damage the cells at the back of the eye and symptoms include blurred and reduced night vision.
In England every year 4,200 people are at risk of blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy yet through the NHS Diabetic Eye Screening Programme it’s estimated that more than 400 people per year could be saved from sight loss.
Dr Susan Blakeney, Clinical Adviser for the College of Optometrists, said: “Diabetes can cause a range of health problems but often people forget about the significant effect the condition has on our eyes. To minimise the risks it’s essential that people with diabetes keep their blood sugar under control and keep their blood pressure well managed.
“Everyone with diabetes who is 12 years old or over should have their eyes screened annually for sight threatening diabetic retinopathy as part of the NHS Diabetic Eye Screening Programme.
“Serious eye problems are less likely if the diabetes is well controlled or in its initial stages. If problems are detected and treated early, the chance of sight loss from diabetic eye disease can be reduced.”
It is important to remember that if you are diabetic and your vision is getting worse, this does not necessarily mean you have diabetic retinopathy.
It may simply be a problem that can be corrected with glasses, so if you notice any problems with your eyes speak to your optometrist for advice.
What can you do?
As well as yearly retinopaty screening, you should go to your optometrist for regular eye tests at least every two years – unless your optometrist advises otherwise.
Regularly look for any changes in your sight (with your spectacles if you wear them) by covering over each eye in turn.
Ask your optometrist for advice if you notice any changes in your vision, or are worried about your eyes.