Diabetes and Your Eye Health

13 JUL 2020

Eye health

Diabetes is a serious, complex condition which requires daily self-care and can have an enormous impact on a person’s quality of life. It is the most common cause of vision loss in working-age adults and the most common cause of preventable blindness.

The eyes are one of the main organs affected by the continuous rise in blood sugar levels for a person living with diabetes. If left unmanaged; blurred vision, cataracts, and in some cases, blindness, can occur.

A person who has diabetes requires yearly eye examinations.

Here is essential information related to diabetes and eye health.

Diabetic Retinopathy

The disease can cause a range of eye problems, the most common being Diabetic Retinopathy, in which the blood vessels inside the retina at the back of the eye are damaged.

Many Australians with diabetes lose their sight each year, but this can be avoided by having regular eye tests to detect the presence of Diabetic Retinopathy in the earliest stages.

As Diabetic Retinopathy can cause vision loss, it is important for people who have diabetes to see their local optometrist annually in order for the condition to be identified and prompt eye care treatment can be initiated.

No Warning Signs

Diabetic eye disease often has no warning signs until it has advanced, so people will often put off having annual eye examinations and place them ‘down the list’ of priorities.

“The reality is that a regular diabetes eye check is the best way to identify early problems, and then ensure early treatment,” says Taryn Black, National Policy and Program Director at Diabetes Australia.

“People with diabetes have many regular health checks they need and often diabetes eye checks are put off, or forgotten about, because there are more pressing health issues to address,” said Ms Black.

Early Detection Saves Sight

The important thing to remember is that with early detection and treatment vision loss from diabetes is preventable. Sadly, without early detection and treatment, once vision has been lost it cannot be restored.

Optometrists are at the forefront of how diabetes and eye health is managed in Australia.

By routinely conducting eye checks local optometrists are making a significant contribution to the eye health of more than 1.8 million Australians living with diabetes.

Eye Test Appointment Reminder

KeepSight, launched by Diabetes Australia last year, is an eye examination reminder system for people living with diabetes.

This program will help to significantly increase the number of eye examinations for people living with diabetes and, in doing so, will reduce the number of people who lose their sight.

KeepSight reminds people with diabetes when they are due to have their eyes check. It is also a national register of people who are having regular eye checks and who are not, allowing Diabetes Australia to target its message to those who are not consistently having their eye checked.

Your local optometrist has a very important role to play in ensuring people with diabetes have regular eye screenings and proper eye care treatment to minimise, if not prevent the debilitating effects of this disease.

A Good Safeguard

Deputy Director at the Centre for Eye Research Australia and ophthalmologist A/Prof Peter van Wijngaarden, who is a driving force behind KeepSight says the return visits for eye exams are “far below what is desirable”.

“Many of those who are found to have mild or no diabetes-related retinopathy will not return for follow-up screening at the recommended time.”

Aside from the reminders sent by your local optometrist, KeepSight reminders serve as a good safeguard to ensure people living with diabetes have their eyes checked to save them losing their sight.

The more points of contact, the greater the chance a person will have of attending follow-up examinations.

Go to KeepSight to register with the reminder program.

If you have diabetes or are experiencing other problems with your vision such as blurred vision, now is the time to take action and book an annual eye examination with your local Eyecare Plus Optometrist.

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