How can diabetes affect the eye?
Diabetes can affect the eye in a number of ways. The most serious eye condition associated with diabetes involves the retina, and, more specifically, the network of blood vessels lying within it. The name of this condition is diabetic retinopathy.
This is usually graded according to its severity. Background diabetic retinopathy is very common in people who have had diabetes for a long time. Your vision will be normal with no threat to your sight. At this stage the blood vessels in the retina are only very mildly affected.
With time, if the background diabetic retinopathy becomes more severe, the macula area may become involved, which is called Maculopathy. With this, your central vision will gradually get worse. It’s the main cause of loss of vision and may occur gradually but progressively.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy
As the eye condition progresses, blood vessels in the retina can become blocked, causing PDR. New blood vessels form, but unfortunately, they are weak and in the wrong place, growing on the surface of the retina and into the vitreous gel. As a result, these blood vessels can bleed very easily and cause scar tissue to form in the eye. Proliferative retinopathy is rarer than background retinopathy.
Most sight loss due to diabetes is preventable, so early diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy is vital.
It is still very important that if anyone has diabetes to undergo a thorough eye examination in addition to their diabetic screening. This is because only an eye examination will be able to pick up certain other eye conditions, along with important visual changes, which are often more common in people who have diabetes.
We welcome everyone who has diabetes for a free NHS eye exam, during which we will have a very detailed look at the health of the eyes, along with checking for any changes to visual needs or spectacle prescription. This is free under the NHS!
What can we do?
Mr Puri says: “It’s essential to have regular eye examinations if you have diabetes. Please never wait until your vision has deteriorated to have an eye exam.”
Due to recent changes in the provision of local Diabetic Eye Screening Services, you will find on your invite letter from the Diabetic Eye screening service, a range of alternative location that you can attend for your annual diabetic screening appointment. Diabetic screening is important as it helps to prevent sight loss. As someone with diabetes, your eyes are at risk of damage from diabetic retinopathy. Screening can detect the condition early before you notice any changes to your vision. It is offered every year to anyone with diabetes aged 12 and over. Please always attend when you receive an invite from the Diabetic Eye screening program as this is an important examination, separate from the eye exam and is provided to you without any cost.