All eyes are on World Diabetes Day 2018 today, as people from all over the world come together to spread the word about this condition. It is important now more than ever to raise awareness, with 4.6 million people currently living with diabetes in the UK alone.
Worrying statistics have also revealed that 500 diabetics in England and Wales die prematurely every week, due to avoidable complications (diabetes.org.uk).
Diabetes occurs when the body cannot produce any insulin (Type 1) or cannot respond to or produce enough insulin (Type 2) to break down high levels of glucose in your blood and deliver it to cells around your body.
Type 1 diabetes is often called juvenile diabetes, as it tends to start in infancy or in adolescence.
Type 2 diabetes has a gradual onset, with no apparent symptoms for years until complications have already started. It is the most common form of the disease.
Diabetes can seriously affect your health if left untreated, potentially resulting in damage to major organs, including your heart, blood vessels and nerves. In extreme cases, results can include comas and even death.
Your eyes are also a part of this list, with sufferers at risk of contracting diabetic eye problems.
Diabetic Eye Problems
One of the earliest symptoms to look out for if you suspect you have diabetes, is blurry vision. This is due to fluctuating blood sugar levels, which causes the lens of the eye to swell. As your blood sugars go down, the lens will shrink and you’ll notice that your vision becomes clearer again.
If you already have Type 1 or 2 diabetes and have not been controlling your blood sugar levels in the long term, you are in danger of developing a diabetic eye disease called diabetic retinopathy. This occurs when damaged blood vessels in the retina cause leakage of blood and fluid into the eye. This can progress to advanced retinopathy, where new, abnormal blood vessels begin to grow inside the retina.
Symptoms tend to only appear once significant damage has already occurred in the eyes. They include:
- Poor night vision
- Struggling to differentiate between colours
- Seeing floaters or dark spots
- Flashes of light
- Vision loss
Untreated diabetic retinopathy ultimately leads to complete sight loss.
It’s worth noting that diabetics are also more likely to develop eye diseases like glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts.
Top Tips to Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy
We are passionate about preventing diabetic complications and helping you to maintain good overall and eye health. Read on to find out our top tips for preventing diabetic retinopathy!Control
Your Blood Sugar Levels
Monitor this every day– according to the NHS, it should be around 4 to 10 mmol/l. Maintain this by eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly.
Keep an Eye on Your Blood Pressure
Checking your blood pressure frequently is vital – high blood pressure causes damage to blood vessels in the retina and puts pressure on the optic nerve. Try and get a maximum reading of 140/80mmHg or less than 130/80mmHg if you already have eye damage caused by diabetes.
Be Mindful of Cholesterol
Stay away from frozen and processed foods with trans fats and saturated fats to avoid cholesterol build up in your eye’s tiny blood vessels. Your cholesterol level should be no more than 4mmol/l. For detailed advice on how to manage diabetes through nutrition, click here.
Have Regular Diabetic Eye Screenings
If you are diabetic or have just been diagnosed, it is incredibly important to attend your diabetic eye screening appointments, with your local service. You should also have a fully dilated eye exam with your optometrist every year, as this is the quickest and easiest way to detect the onset of diabetic eye problems.
The team at Infocus are dedicated to your eye care, with fully qualified and experienced optometrists that can diagnose and refer you for diabetes-related eye conditions both swiftly and accurately. Don’t leave your vision to chance – if you suspect you have any of the symptoms mentioned or you have just been diagnosed with diabetes, request an appointment online or contact us on 0207 224 7400.