Diabetes and Eye Problems

Web Resource Last Updated: 06-08-2020

All people with diabetes are at risk of developing eye problems. Factors that contribute to this risk are poor diabetes control, high blood pressure and smoking.

The most common diabetes-related condition is retinopathy, which is damage to the retina, the part of the back of the eye that converts light into electrical signals.

Reducing the risk of eye problems

  • You should keep your diabetes well controlled and make sure you have regular eye screening. 
  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly and keep it under control.
  • Avoid smoking. If you do smoke there is plenty of support available to help you stop. You can talk to your diabetes care team, your GP or even your local pharmacy. They will be able to recommend and prescribe patches and tablets to help you if needed.
  • Eye tests by an optician are free for people with diabetes; you should have your sight checked once a year.
  • If your vision changes suddenly, you should contact your GP right away. 

Diabetic eye screening 

  • This is done at your local retinal screening unit and should be carried out once a year. 
  • Eye drops may be used to dilate your pupils to allow the back of your eye to be checked for changes caused by diabetes. 
  • The eye drops may affect your sight so you may need someone to take you home. You will not be able to drive until your sight returns to normal.
  • Take sunglasses with you as your eyes will be sensitive to light afterwards.
  • A photograph of the back of your eye will be taken and stored on computer, so next time the pictures can be compared.

If you are found to have eye problems you will be referred to an eye specialist.

Useful resources

For more information on retinopathy, see this Diabetes UK video.

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