13 June 2016
To raise awareness for Diabetes Week 2016 we’re looking at how Diabetes can affect your eyes and offering tips on managing the condition to avoid eye complications.
This week is Diabetes Week, an annual awareness campaign run by Diabetes UK. According to Diabetes UK there are 3.5 million people in the UK alone who have been diagnosed with Diabetes, and a further estimated 549,000 who have the condition but haven’t yet received a diagnosis.
Your optometrist can tell a lot about your general health from your eyes, and if you have diabetes it is extra important to have regular eye tests. Although diabetes is a common, lifelong condition, it is still a condition that should be taken seriously to avoid complications.
One area that can be affected if diabetes is not properly managed is the eyes. To raise awareness for Diabetes Week we’ve gathered some useful tips and information from Diabetes UK, the NHS and RNIB about how best to manage your diabetes to help avoid eye complications.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition whereby the body doesn’t produce any insulin, doesn’t produce enough insulin, or produces insulin that doesn’t work properly. Insulin is important as it allows glucose to enter the cells in our body, and glucose gives us energy. If you have diabetes the glucose that you take into the body when you eat carbohydrates builds up in the blood causing high blood sugar levels rather than getting used by the body.
There are two main types of diabetes; type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs before the age of 30 as a result of your body producing little or no insulin. Type 2 diabetes commonly occurs after the age of 40 because your body is producing too little insulin, or your body is not able to use the insulin properly.
If diabetes isn’t managed properly then a persistently high blood sugar level can cause problems. One such complication is a condition called diabetic retinopathy.
If left untreated for a long period of time diabetic retinopathy can cause damage to vision, so it’s very important to understand the condition and what steps you can take to protect your eyes.
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is often symptomless in the early stages, which is why everyone with diabetes should attend regular diabetic eye screening or eye tests to check for early signs of the condition.
Symptoms can include:
• Blurry vision
• Eye pain or redness
• Worsening vision
These symptoms are not exclusive to retinopathy but should always be checked out immediately and not left until your next eye test or diabetic screening appointment is due.
Managing Diabetes to reduce risk of diabetic retinopathy
Take a holistic approach by getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and eating a healthy and balanced diet
Leading a healthy lifestyle is one of the most important things you can do to help manage your diabetes and protect your eyes. If you’re eating a healthy and balanced diet and exercising regularly this will help you to naturally maintain a healthy weight and control your blood sugar levels.
Always taking diabetes medication on time and as prescribed
After a new diagnosis it can be difficult to remember to take your new medications on time every day, but it’s important to create a routine during these early days. If necessary set alarms on your phone to remind you to take your medicines until it becomes second nature.
Help to control your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels by eating a healthy, balanced diet
As well as taking medications on time, a big part of managing your diabetes involves eating a balanced diet. Switch from white carbohydrates to wholegrain alternatives; cut back on saturated fats, processed foods and salt, and instead eat more fish, beans, pulses, fruit and veg. For more tips on eating well with diabetes visit: www.diabetes.org.uk.
Seek medical advice promptly if you experience any changes in your vision
If your vision becomes blurry or obstructed in any way then it is important to seek advice immediately and not just leave it until your next appointment is due.
Keep up with attending your regular diabetes eye screening appointments
Diabetic retinopathy is symptomless in the early stages, so it’s important to make sure you always attend your diabetes eye screening appointments on time, even if your eyes and vision feel normal.
Remember, not everyone with diabetes will develop problems with their eyes, and the majority that do will only develop a very mild form of retinopathy that never progresses enough to be a serious threat to their vision. Use the advice in this blog and on www.diabetes.org.uk to help manage the condition and reduce your chances of developing eye complications.
Worried about diabetes and due an eye test? During an eye examination the optometrist will look out for signs and symptoms of diabetes and refer you to your doctor if necessary.
Book a free eye test at your local Tesco Opticians store online.