Warning signs in your eyes that could indicate diabetes

DIABETES affects 4.9 million people in the UK[1] and more people than ever are at risk.

It is estimated that 13.6 million people are in danger of developing type 2 diabetes and 850,000 are currently living with the condition but are yet to be diagnosed[2]. However, if left untreated it can cause damage to the heart, feet, kidneys as well as our eyes, which in extreme cases can lead to vision loss[3].

To help prevent this from happening Specsavers is highlighting the importance of regular eye tests as well as some of the warning signs we can look out for to help detect the condition.

Hina Popat, ophthalmic director, says: ‘Diabetes can affect your eyes in many ways and, for some people, it can lead to diabetic retinopathy which, if not treated in time, can lead to sight loss.

‘In its early stages diabetic retinopathy usually doesn’t pose any noticeable symptoms, so an eye test can pick it up before you do. 

As diabetic retinopathy is a serious condition it is also important to monitor any changes in your vision and get them checked out by your optometrist. The warning signs include: 

  • Persistent floaters – Hina says: ‘Floaters are spots in your vision and usually look like black or grey specs or cobwebs that drift about when you move your eyes. Most people will experience floaters in their vision at some point in their life – particularly as we reach older age as the jelly-like substance in our eyes becomes more liquid.
    ‘If you notice more eye floaters than usual, a sudden onset of new ones, flashes of light in the eye or darkness on any side of your vision, you must get it looked at immediately as in some cases it can be a symptom of diabetic retinopathy.’ 
  • Blurred vision – ‘Blurred vision can be caused by many things and it is vital you get it checked out,’ says Hina. ‘Diabetes raises the risk of experiencing diabetic retinopathy where high blood sugar levels damage tiny blood vessels in the eye that sense light which can result in blurry vision. Blurry vision can also be a symptom of diabetes which can resolve when blood sugars start to reduce after diagnosis and starting treatment.’ 
  • Difficulty seeing in the dark – Hina says: ‘As diabetic retinopathy can cause damage to the light sensors in the eye it can lead to dimmer vision, almost as if you’re wearing sunglasses. If you’re struggling to see when it’s dark, it’s an important sign not to ignore.’

Hina adds: ‘You’re more at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy if you have had diabetes for a long time, have a persistently high blood sugar level, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, are pregnant or are of Asian or Afro-Caribbean background. By keeping your blood pressure, sugar levels and cholesterol levels down you can help reduce your risk and make sure you have regular eye tests too[4].

‘At Specsavers, we offer digital retinal photography free of charge as part of a standard eye test for customers aged over 40. This takes a detailed picture of the back of your eye allowing the blood vessels to be monitored more closely – helping to detect any signs of diabetes that might be present.’? 

What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy can occur when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the back of the eye over a long period of time. As it develops, blood vessels can weaken, bulge or leak into the retina and can be referred to as non-proliferative retinopathy. However, if it worsens, some vessels can close off which causes new ones to grow, or proliferate, on the surface of the retina. This is known as proliferative retinopathy and can lead to problems with your vision and even sight loss.  Some people who have diabetic retinopathy can also develop diabetic macular oedema. The macula is the part of your retina you need for reading, driving and seeing faces. However, over time, the disease can destroy the sharp vision in this part of the eye leading to partial vision loss or even blindness5.

For more information or to book an eye test visit www.specsavers.co.uk/eye-health/diabetic-retinopathy

[1] https://www.diabetes.org.uk/professionals/position-statements-reports/statistics

[2] https://www.diabetes.org.uk/professionals/position-statements-reports/statistics

[3] https://www.diabetes.org.uk/type-2-diabetes

[4] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/diabetic-retinopathy/

  1. 5. https://www.macularsociety.org/macular-disease/macular-conditions/diabetic-macular-oedema/#:~:text=Diabetic%20macular%20oedema%20(DMO)%20is,known%20as%20diabetic%20macular%20oedema