Diabetes Awareness Week: How diabetes can affect your eyes

Jun 16, 2021 in Eye Care

Diabetes poster

It is estimated that around one in 15 people in the UK have diabetes, yet some estimates suggest that there are more than one million people with type 2 diabetes who are unaware they have it.

Diabetes Awareness Week 2021 aims to change this. It runs from 14th to 20th June 2021 and is organised by Diabetes UK every year to raise awareness of diabetes, its symptoms and treatments.


How do you know if you have diabetes? First, it’s important to distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Both are very similar, but there are some important differences.

Type 1

Means the body doesn’t produce any insulin which causes blood sugar levels to become too high. Injections are needed every day to control the condition. Unlike type 2 diabetes, it’s not linked to age or being overweight.

Type 2

Also causes blood sugar levels to become too high, as the body produces an irregular or insufficient amount of insulin or the body has become resistant to insulin.

The symptoms of both types of diabetes are similar. They include:

  • excessive thirst
  • needing to urinate a lot
  • tiredness
  • excessive hunger
  • unintentional weight loss
  • blurred or loss of vision

Find out more at [https://www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics]

Diabetes and the eyes

Many people only realise they have diabetes after experiencing problems with their vision. That’s because having the disease could make you more likely to develop a range of eye conditions. If you have diabetes, it’s vital to have regular eye checks to monitor your eye health. The NHS recommends anyone over the age of 13 with diabetes attends a routine ‘diabetic retinopathy’ screening appointment - speak to your GP or diabetic nurse to get yourself enrolled on this list for appointment reminders if you aren't already, or if you’re unsure whether you are enrolled or not. It is also important for diabetics to have regular eye examinations every 2 years or more often if recommended by your optometrist.

Why? Because it’s important to check for diabetic retinopathy, which occurs when high sugar levels damage the retina. If left untreated, it can lead to blindness.

Other common diabetic eye problems include diabetic macular oedema, where the central part of the retina becomes swollen due to a build-up of fluid, causing blurred vision. Diabetes also increases the risk of cataracts and glaucoma, among others, which is why it’s so important that you still see your optometrist as often as instructed.

Preventing diabetic eye problems

Luckily, there are plenty of steps you can take to reduce your risk of diabetes-related eye conditions. These include controlling blood sugar levels and blood pressure, keeping fit and quitting smoking.

When it comes to monitoring your eye health, the Leightons OCT Eye Examination offers the cutting-edge OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) scan, which can detect conditions such as diabetic retinopathy and macular oedema long before traditional eye tests. The OCT is a little like an ultrasound for the eyes, meaning it can pick up even the tiniest changes or swellings to the retina.

The Leightons Ultimate Eye Examination, available in selected branches, offers an OCT scan as well as Optomap imaging to take panoramic images of your retina. This technology allows us to see up to 80% of the retina, compared to the 10-15% shown by traditional eye examination methods; evidence suggests, 66% of retinal pathology - including diabetic retinopathy - occur outside the central 10-15% of the retina seen with a standard fundus camera

Find out more You can make an eye examination appointment online, in your local Leightons branch, or by calling us on 0800 40 20 20.
For more information on Diabetes Week 2021, visit the Diabetes UK website.