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
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.
- high blood glucose
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
The most important person in the management of your diabetes is
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
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
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
Therefore, prevention is key.