Looking After Your Eyes
Keep your blood glucose levels and your blood pressure under control to minimise the risk of developing serious long term complications that can affect your vision
The best way to reduce the risk of developing complications is to keep your blood glucose levels and also your blood pressure under control. If you are a smoker, then it is advisable to give up smoking as this can further damage the blood vessels. As with other complications associated with diabetes, maintaining a healthy diet and weight and exercising regularly will also help reduce the risks.
This may include diabetic retinopathy, which unfortunately is the most common preventable cause of blindness among people of working age in the UK. It occurs when high blood glucose levels damage the small blood vessels in the back of the eyes (the retina). It may lead to a deterioration of sight and if it is not treated can lead to blindness.
Laser treatment may be necessary to close off the damaged blood vessels, preventing future deterioration, although it cannot restore lost vision.
People with diabetic retinopathy may have no symptoms at first and it is not possible to tell if someone has retinopathy just by looking at them. You should have your eyes screened once a year to check for signs of damage. This will be carried out under the NHS Diabetic Eye Screening Programme, which is in place with the aim of identifying the condition at an early stage so that it can be treated.
Other eye conditions
In addition to retinopathy, people with diabetes are more likely to develop two other common eye conditions - cataracts and glaucoma.
You may also experience blurring of vision in the short term (especially when you have just been diagnosed with diabetes). The high level of glucose in the blood leads to a swelling in the eye, causing blurred vision. This will resolve itself once the blood glucose levels are brought under control, but can be very frightening.