Diabetes & Eye Care

What can I do to prevent diabetic eye problems?

At Morrison's Family Eyecare Centre we recommend you have an examination once a year even if you think your vision is OK. Diabetic changes can be detected before they reduce your vision.

We will use drops to make the pupil (black part of your eye) bigger. This process is called dilating your pupil, which allows the Optometrist to see the back of your eye more thoroughly. Retinal photography and OCT is recommended for all diabetics and must be done with a dilated pupil. Finding eye problems early and getting treatment right away will help prevent more serious problems like blindness later on. When having your diabetic eye examination we will also check for signs of Cataracts and Glaucoma. It is also important that if you have gestational diabetes that you book an eye examination in your first trimester (first 3 months).

How can diabetes hurt my eyes?

High blood glucose and high blood pressure from diabetes can hurt four parts of your eye:

Retina: The retina is the lining at the back of the eye. The retina's job is to sense light coming into the eye. Diabetes will cause the retinal blood vessels to bleed.

Vitreous: The vitreous is a jelly-like fluid that fills the back of the eye.

Lens: The lens is at the front of the eye. It focuses light on the retina. Diabetes will cause the lens to swell making vision very blurry suddenly.

Optic Nerve: The optic nerve is the eye's main nerve to the brain. Diabetes starves the Optic nerve over time preventing it from getting its valuable nutrients.

This is a picture of an eye from the side.

How can diabetes hurt the retinas of my eyes?

Retina damage happens slowly. Your retinas have tiny blood vessels that are easy to damage. Having high blood glucose and high blood pressure for a long time can damage these tiny blood vessels.

First, these tiny blood vessels swell and weaken. Some blood vessels then become clogged and do not let enough blood through. At first, you might not have any loss of sight from these changes. Have a dilated eye exam once a year even if your sight seems fine.

One of your eyes may be damaged more than the other or both eyes may have the same amount of damage. Diabetic retinopathy is the medical term for the most common diabetes eye problem.

What happens as diabetes retina problems get worse?

As diabetes retina problems get worse, new blood vessels grow. These new blood vessels are weak. They break easily and leak blood into the vitreous of your eye. The leaking blood keeps light from reaching the retina. You may see floating spots or almost total darkness. Sometimes the blood will clear out by itself, but you might need surgery to remove it.

Over the years, the swollen and weak blood vessels can form scar tissue and pull the retina away from the back of the eye. If the retina becomes detached, you may see floating spots or flashing lights. You may feel as if a curtain has been pulled over part of what you are looking at. A detached retina can cause loss of sight or blindness if you don't take care of it right away.

Please phone 1300 393 000 immediately if you are having any vision problems or if you have had a sudden change in your vision.

What can I do about diabetes retina problems?

First, keep your blood glucose and blood pressure as close to normal as you can.

You may be referred to an Ophthalmologist who may suggest laser treatment, which is when a light beam is aimed into the retina of the damaged eye. The beam closes off leaking blood vessels. It may stop blood and fluid from leaking into the vitreous. Laser treatment may slow the loss of sight.

If a lot of blood has leaked into your vitreous and your sight is poor, your Ophthalmologist may suggest you have surgery called a vitrectomy. A vitrectomy removes blood and fluids from the vitreous of your eye. Then clean fluid is put back into the eye. The surgery can make your eyesight better.

How do I know if I have retina damage from diabetes?

You may not get any signs of diabetes retina damage or you may get one or more signs, such as;

  • Blurry or double vision
  • Flashing lights
  • Blank spots
  • Dark or floating spots
  • Pain or pressure in the eye/eyes
  • Trouble with peripheral vision    

What other eye problems can diabetes cause?

Cataracts and Glaucoma are the most common eye conditions caused from diabetes. People without diabetes can get these eye problems, too. But people with diabetes get them more often and at a younger age.

If you require more information on diabetes and eyecare please follow the following link to: Diabetes Australia.

If you are due or require a diabetic eye examination please make an appointment with Sallyanne or Josh by phoning 1300 EYE 000.