An eye condition known as diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness. So yes, diabetes can damage your eyesight, but it may be preventable…

It’s Diabetes Month and you’ve recently had a free diabetes screening and been diagnosed. The importance of diet and exercise has probably been drilled into you. However, many people often overlook diabetic eye care.

According to the World Health Organisation, a diabetic eye disease known as diabetic retinopathy accounts for about five percent of world blindness, representing almost five million blind in 2002.

This is despite the fact that diabetic retinopathy can be partly prevented and treated.

“As the adage goes: prevention is better than cure. With regular optical care, the risks associated with the loss of eyesight as a result of diabetes can be considerably reduced,” says Dr Jan Niemandt, an ophthalmologist at Pretoria Eye Institute, adding that diabetes is the primary cause of blindness in adults aged 20 to 74.

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Diabetic related eye conditions

What kind of eye problems can diabetics experience?

Some of the eye problems which diabetics may encounter include:

  • Diabetic retinopathy: A condition that affects the blood vessels in the retina that line the back of the eye.
  • Diabetic macular oedema: Swelling of an area in the retina, called the macula, caused by the build-up of fluid.
  • Cataracts: The clouding of the normally transparent crystalline lens in the eye, causing blurry vision.
  • Glaucoma: The occurrence of abnormally high pressure in the eye because of too much liquid, which can cause damage to the optic nerve.

What to watch out for

“Diabetics need to carefully monitor any changes to their vision,” says Dr Niemandt.

Symptoms that should be immediately checked by a professional include sudden blurry vision, a sudden, sharp pain in the eye, a loss of vision in one or both eyes, flashes of light and nausea, and vomiting or headaches accompanying eye complications.”

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Don’t be blind sighted

Unfortunately, many people don’t take diabetes seriously enough and may find themselves blind sighted by the disease – literally.

If you’ve been warned about being at risk for diabetes or have been newly diagnosed, you will need to stop making excuses and make your health a priority.

Follow your doctor’s recommended healthy lifestyle advice, take prescribed diabetic medication as directed and ask about how often you need medical check-ups and eye exams.

“There is no such thing as ‘mild’ diabetes and we take our responsibility to our patients seriously,” says Dr Niemandt, “As the medical fraternity continues to make strides in the treatment of diabetes and the optical side effects of the disease, we remain committed to embracing every opportunity to deliver holistic eye solutions. We are invested in people over and above treatment.”

Sources: Pretoria Eye Institute and the World Health Organisation

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.