Check off 4 points to save your eyesight

By Dr William Glasson, Ophthalmologist


Diabetic retinopathy is a common condition where high glucose levels cause damage to the back of the eye which can result in blindness.


It's important to remember, diabetes can be causing damage without any symptoms.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, there are four important contributors to you developing diabetes-related changes in your eyes.


These include:

  • high blood glucose
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • smoking


The most important person in the management of your diabetes is you!


You can modify the risk of developing eye changes because of your diabetes with the help of your general practitioner (GP).


Your GP will organise regular blood tests to check your glucose control, also known as a HbA1c.


It is a number that you should remember as it helps remind you how well you are controlling your glucose on a long-term basis.


I have had patients who have had diabetes for 50 years and have no signs of any diabetes changes at the back of the eye because they have controlled their glucose well.


If you are having trouble controlling your glucose levels, your GP and diabetes educators are here to help.


If you have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, you need to make sure you take your medications every day.


Finally, my important message to all my patients with diabetes is that if you smoke then your risk of going blind because of diabetes is much higher. You need to stop smoking.

It is important to remember that diabetes not only affects your eyes, but also  a number of organs in the body. It can damage your kidneys and cause heart disease, peripheral vascular disease and stroke.


Working with your eye health professionals (ophthalmologist, optometrist and GP) allows us to screen your eyes for early signs of eye disease caused by your diabetes.

If we find abnormalities at the back of the eye because of diabetes, our first message is to ensure your risk factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high glucose levels, smoking) are being controlled adequately. In many cases, no treatment is needed.


However, if diabetes begins to threaten your vision, we may need to use a laser or an injection of medication into the eye. This will reduce the chance of going blind.


In many cases, once you go blind from diabetes we are unable to reverse this.


Therefore, prevention is key. 

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