Safeguard your eyes from Type 2 Diabetes

The best way to safeguard your eyes and eyesight from Type 2 diabetes is to:

  • Make wise food choices
  • ™ Exercise
  • ™ Take medicines if needed
  • ™ Have regular eye examinations

Type 2 diabetes causes the body to lose the ability to self-regulate its blood sugar levels. Abnormally high levels of sugar can then build up in the blood. This is called hyperglycaemia. These high blood sugar levels damage the cells in the body. The small blood vessels in the eyes are especially susceptible. High levels of glucose in the blood can lead to bleeds in the retina called diabetic retinopathy.

To prevent damage to the eyes you need to achieve the best glycaemic control that you can. Your GP and/or endocrinologist can order tests to measure your Glycated haemoglobin or HbA1c. This is a blood test used to measure plasma glucose concentration over time. It usually indicates average blood glucose levels over the previous month to three months prior to the measurement. To reduce the risk of developing eye complications, the target HbA1c levels, are 7.0% or lower. It is also very important to adequately control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

If you have Type 2 diabetes, it is recommended that you have eye examinations at least every 2 years. If you have had diabetes for a long time or if you have poor control of your diabetes, blood pressure or blood cholesterol then you need to have your eyes checked at least annually. We usually prefer to check all our patients diagnosed with diabetes annually. It is very important to have a thorough eye examination done with dilated pupils.

Changes to the retinal blood vessels (diabetic retinopathy) are the most common signs with diabetes. Other changes that can occur to the eyes with diabetes are:

  • Macular oedema.
  • ™Damage to the small blood vessels of the optic nerve.
  • Weakness of eye muscles which may cause double vision.
  • More likely to develop sudden vision loss due to occlusion of the retinal vessels (branch retinal vein occlusion).
  • Changes to refractive error (short term changes from large fluctuations in blood glucose).
  • Increased likelihood of cataract and glaucoma.

Often there are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, nor is there any pain. Don’t wait for symptoms to occur! Be sure to have a comprehensive dilated eye examination. Keep in mind that everyone diagnosed with diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy! Prevention, by controlling your blood glucose, blood pressure and blood cholesterol is the best method. This is the most effective way to safeguard your eyes.