Diabetes Awareness Week: the link between diabetes and eyesight

Jun 12, 2019 in Eye Care

Glucose level monitor on top of fruit

What’s the link between diabetes and eyesight? To mark Diabetes Awareness Week, we’re taking a closer look...

Diabetes affects 4.7 million people in the UK, but it’s an even bigger issue than you might think. A further 12 million people are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes – proof that diabetes remains widely misunderstood and underestimated.

That’s why Diabetes Awareness Week (10-16 June) is so important. The focus of this year’s campaign is to increase our understanding of the disease and to help us all #SeeDiabetesDifferently.

At Leightons, this is something we take literally, as one of the first signs of diabetes can be blurred vision. As always, early detection is crucial to treatment, making regular eye check-ups a must.

The dangers of diabetes

Diabetes occurs when the blood glucose (sugar) levels get too high, leading to damage to organs including the heart, eyes, feet and kidneys. There are two main types of diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system attacks cells that produce insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas that regulates glucose levels in the blood. Type 1 is typically diagnosed in early childhood. The cause is still uncertain, but it can be regulated through daily monitoring of blood glucose levels and administering the appropriate amount of insulin.

In type 2 diabetes, either the body doesn't make enough insulin or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin. Unlike type 1, type 2 diabetes can be potentially reversed through healthy eating, weight loss and leading a more active lifestyle. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the condition.

Symptoms of both types can include blurred or loss of vision, excessive thirst, increased frequency of urination, excessive hunger, tiredness and unintentional weight loss.

A close-up of a blue eye.

Diabetic eye problems

If you suffer from diabetes, eye health is very important for managing the condition. This is because high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels in the eyes – leading to diabetic retinopathy. If it goes unchecked, diabetic retinopathy can cause serious eye problems and even lead to complete loss of vision.

Diabetics are also more at risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma, so it’s crucial to get regular check-ups to monitor your eye health. Symptoms can develop gradually, so the earlier any eye problems are spotted the more successful preventative treatment can be.

In England, it is recommended that everyone diagnosed with diabetes has a diabetic retinopathy screening with a local NHS service every year.

However, diabetic retinopathy screening isn’t a replacement for your routine eye examination with your optometrist. The NHS recommends we all have a routine eye test at least every 2 years (whether we have diabetes or not).

Lady having her eye test

Why it might be time to get your eyes checked

To monitor diabetes and the eyes, Leightons offer the Ultimate Eye Examination with a state-of-the-art OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) scan. This technology allows us to detect diabetic retinopathy and other eye problems much earlier than traditional eye tests – picking up even the tiniest changes in the retina.

At selected branches, we also offer the Leightons Advanced Eye Examination. This uses Optomap technology to capture images of up to 80% of the retina. This is crucial, as research shows 66% of retinopathy can occur outside the 10-15% of the retina that is seen in a standard eye examination.

Get in touch

So, whether you have diabetes, are concerned about blurred vision, or just need a check-up – make an appointment with us today and be proactive about your eye health. Appointments can be made online, at your local Leightons branch or over the phone on 0800 40 20 20.