Eye problems caused by diabetes

Diabetes is relatively common, with around 3.2 million people in the UK diagnosed with the condition and an estimated 500,000 undiagnosed.

It’s a condition where there is too much sugar in the blood. It can be treated, but even with treatment, people with diabetes have a higher risk of developing eye problems.

It’s particularly significant as far as your eyesight is concerned as diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness amongst working-age adults in the UK.

People with diabetes can have eye problems due to leaky or blocked blood vessels in the retina, the layer at the back of the eye.

The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop eye problems. Crucially if your diabetes is poorly controlled this increases the chance that you will develop diabetic eye disease.

You may not notice the signs or symptoms of early diabetic eye problems. You should get your eyes checked regularly to pick up any changes. In almost all UK areas, a screening programme will invite you to get an annual eye check using digital photography for diabetic eye disease if you have diabetes. It is extremely important to have this done.

Laser treatment of the problem blood vessels can prevent further sight loss for nine people in 10.

It’s worth noting that people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop glaucoma as other adults and tend to develop cataracts at an earlier age.

Minimise eyesight problems

If you have diabetes there are several things you can do to minimise sight problems:
• Attend a regular eye check at least every year.
• Take care to control your blood sugar as well as possible.
• Talk to your GP about controlling your diabetes.
• Looking after your blood pressure and cholesterol can reduce the risk of sight loss.
• Stop smoking.
• Exercise regularly and aim to lose any extra weight.
• If you notice an increase in spots floating in your vision or your vision becomes blurred, contact your specialist as soon as possible.

→ Read more about eye health issues.