Diabetes UK will be running their annual Diabetes Awareness Week campaign next month, in order to raise awareness of the condition and support those affected by it. From Sunday 12th – Saturday 18th June, this year’s campaign aims to clear up the common myths and misconceptions around diabetes.

‘people with diabetes will eventually go blind’

One of the common myths that the event hopes to educate on is that ‘people with diabetes will eventually go blind’. Although this is not always the case, Diabetes UK have stated that diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in people of working age in the UK.

If you’re suffering from diabetes, understanding how it could affect your eye health will help you to reduce your chances of developing any complications with your vision.

Firstly, what is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition affecting more than 3.5 million people in the UK. The condition, caused by the body’s inability to properly use glucose, is often a life-long problem and can have detrimental effects on your eyesight and other parts of the body.

For people with diabetes, glucose levels in the blood are too high. This is because their bodies don’t produce enough insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that allows glucose to enter the body’s cells for fuel for energy.

Too much glucose built up in the blood could lead to diabetic retinopathy.

How can it affect your eyesight?

Diabetic retinopathy is damage to the eye’s retina – the ‘seeing’ part at the back of the eye. The retina normally converts the light it receives when we look at things into electrical signals so that we can process them. However, when the blood vessels to the retina become blocked with high levels of blood glucose, they could leak or bulge. This will damage the retina and could impact upon its healthy functioning.

Types of retinopathy:

Background retinopathy: this will not affect your eyesight, but it needs to be carefully monitored. The retina’s blood vessels could become blocked and bulge or leak.

Maculopathy: when the background retinopathy is at or around the macula. The macula is the most used area of the retina responsible for our detailed, central vision. Swelling could lead to some loss of or blurred vision.

Proliferative retinopathy: this occurs as background retinopathy develops and large areas of the retina are deprived of a proper blood supply. New vessels may grow to compensate, which may also bleed easier and create scar tissue. The retina can become detached and cause vision loss or blindness.

Diabetes can cause these complications around your eyesight, however there are ways to lower the risks of developing them. Controlling your blood pressure, glucose, and blood fat levels to the agreed levels by a healthcare professional, will help you reduce the chances of your blood vessels becoming blocked and damaging your eyes. It’s also advised that people stop smoking as this can contribute to complications with vision arising.

It is vital to have routine eye examinations so that any concerns can be addressed. It is important to understand with both adults and children an eye test is not just about how well you can see, it’s also about checking the health of your eyes.

Diabetics should be part of the diabetic screening irrespective of whether you have regular eye examinations. So if you are a diabetic, please speak to you doctor or your optician to see how they can get you on the screening programme. This programme monitors your retinal changes that are caused by diabetes, centralising all your information allowing easier access to the eye hospital.

The summer holidays is the perfect time to book an appointment with your optician and keep your child’s eyes healthy. To book an appointment with Optimum Vision Clinic, you can call 0118 981 0267, email info@optimumvisionclinic.co.uk or use our online contact form at optimumvisionclinic.co.uk.