Diabetes and Your Vision
A report launched today (19.09.05) by the Healthcare Commission highlights how half a million people in the UK could be unaware that they have diabetes. Here JB Eyecare provides advice on how diabetes can affect your eyes and the importance of following a good eye health regime.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus or 'sugar diabetes' affects about one person in fifty in the UK. This means that the body cannot cope normally with sugar and other carbohydrates in the diet.
Diabetes can start in childhood, but it often begins later in life. It can cause complications, which affect different parts of the body. There are two types of diabetes mellitus - one is controlled by insulin injections and the other by diet or tablets, but they both affect the eyes in the same way.
If you have diabetes this does not necessarily mean that your sight will be affected, but there is a higher risk. If your diabetes is well controlled then you are less likely to have problems, or they may be less serious. However if there are complications which affect the eyes then this can result in loss of sight.
Why are regular eye tests are important?
Most sight loss from diabetic retinopathy can be prevented. But it is vital that it is diagnosed early. You may not realise that there is anything wrong with your eyesight, and so regular eye checks are extremely important.
How can diabetes affect the eye?
Your eye has a lens and an aperture (opening) at the front, which adjust to bring objects into focus on the retina at the back of the eye. The retina is made up of a delicate tissue that is sensitive to light, rather like the film in a camera.
At the centre of the retina is the macula, which is a small area about the size of a pinhead. This is the most highly specialised part of the retina and it is vital because it enables you to see fine detail and read small print. The other parts of the retina give you side vision (peripheral vision). Filling the cavity of the eye in front of the retina is a clear jelly-like substance called the vitreous humour.
Diabetes can affect the eye in a number of ways. These usually involve the fine network of blood vessels in the retina - hence the term diabetic retinopathy.
Your vision may become blurred for a few days or weeks while your diabetes is first being controlled. This is due to the swelling of the lens of the eye and will soon clear without treatment soon after the diabetes is controlled.
This can occur in two forms:
- Young people with diabetes very occasionally develop a special type of cataract.Although their vision gets worse, it can be restored by surgery;
- Older people with diabetes can be especially prone to developing cataracts. Cataracts can be successfully removed by surgery and usually it is possible to insert a lens implant. However this is unsuitable for some people and you will be told if this is the case.