– we can detect this disease –
It’s World Diabetes Day on Saturday 14 November 2020 and some of you may not know that an eye examination can detect whether – or not – you have diabetes? Unaware of the role of optometrists in detecting diabetic eye disease, as well as diabetes itself, many clients have been surprised when we inform them that they have this metabolic disease.
Diabetes, one of the fastest-growing chronic diseases, has been put under the spotlight during the Covid-19 pandemic because those with diabetes are said to be ‘at risk’. And most people are oblivious of the impact that diabetes has on the eyes. Early detection is crucial for prompt management, which means regular eye examinations are vital.
Diabetes is a disease characterised by the body’s inability to effectively control the sugar levels in the blood. One of the effects of high, blood-sugar levels is damage to the blood vessels. The eyes are particularly vulnerable to this damage because the tiny vessels supplying the eyes with blood are sensitive to blood-sugar fluctuations in the body.
Diabetic retinopathy, the general term for all disorders of the retina caused by diabetes, is the most common of the diabetic eye diseases. Initially, it may present no symptoms or only mild vision problems but can cause blindness. The condition is known to develop in those who have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. The longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to develop this eye complication. Diabetic retinopathy falls into two main classes: non-proliferative and proliferative. ‘Proliferative’ refers to whether or not there is abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina. Early disease without abnormal blood vessel growth is called non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy. Treatment – depending on the type of diabetic retinopathy you have and how severe it is – is geared to slowing or stopping progression of the condition.
Diabetic eye diseases, caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina) include:
- Diabetic macular oedema, the result of the leakage of fluid into the retina which may lead to swelling of the surrounding tissue, including the macular and is the most common cause of vision loss in people with diabetic retinopathy. Macular oedema is reversible in the early stages, but chronic oedema may lead to irreversible changes in the retina. The macular is the central area of the retina responsible for sharp, clear vision
- Cataracts, more common in people who have diabetes, tend to develop at a younger age and progress more rapidly in diabetics.
The retina, which is the back of the eye, displays an unobstructed view of blood vessels, and the damage that may be present, due to diabetes. A standard eye examination may not detect early signs of diabetic retinopathy, however, a dilated eye examination can. Optometrists are, often, the first medical professionals to identify blood vessel changes and suspect diabetes before vision problems or other general symptoms appear.
A dilated eye examination is not painful. The pupil is enlarged with specific eye drops so that a clear view of the retina and optic nerve is available. A large percentage of diabetes-related vision loss can be prevented, or its progression slowed down or even stopped with timely management.
Be proactive because early detection reduces the risk of eye damage.
When were your eyes last checked?
We offer a safe, welcoming environment, follow all the Covid-19 health protocols – and implore you to follow good eye-care practices.