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Diabetes Victoria Blog


Join the discussion in our blog where a variety of writers from all walks of life take a stance on current diabetes issues.
 

Diabetes and eye health: focusing on regular check-ups


By Catherine Amadio, Jenny Hickleton and Katie Whittaker

To promote eye health awareness, we’re shining a light on the importance of keeping up with your regular eye checks.

Focusing on KeepSight

Keeping up with appointments can be difficult. That’s why Diabetes Australia has created the government funded KeepSight program—a reminder program that notifies you when you’re next due for an eye check.

It’s simple to sign up. Head to keepsight.org.au and fill in your details. You can even choose how you’d like to be reminded - by SMS, email or post.

A vision for prevention

The good news is that most vision loss from diabetes is preventable if detected and treated early enough. But only 50 per cent of Aussies are currently getting their recommended eye checks. To ensure you’re looking after your eye health, have regular check-ups—at least every 12 months for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and at least every two years for non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Looking at the why

Doing something as simple as having regular diabetes eye checks can help prevent diabetes-related blindness by detecting problems early when they are treatable.

On average, one in three people living with diabetes will develop changes to their eyes. Diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss in working age Australians.

High blood glucose levels can cause a range of eye problems:
  • A short-term problem can arise when blood glucose levels are high:
    • Glucose and water move into the lens at the front of the eye, changing its shape. This causes the lens to go out of focus leading to blurred vision.
    • Vision returns to the way it was once blood glucose levels come back down, however this may take time to settle.
    • Delay getting new prescription glasses until this short-term problem has resolved, however any changes to vision should be checked by an optometrist or doctor.
  • Long-term diabetes-related eye problems are more serious and can lead to vision loss or blindness:
    • The most common is diabetic retinopathy.
    • Other long-term problems are cataracts, macular oedema and glaucoma.

Diabetic retinopathy

High blood glucose levels over a long period of time can damage the tiny blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye, leading to diabetic retinopathy:
  • Having blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol in your target range can help to prevent or delay retinopathy. Speak to your doctor about this.
  • There are usually no symptoms of retinopathy in the early stages – damage can happen before you notice changes in your vision.
  • Diabetes eye checks, also known as retinopathy screenings, can find problems in the retina early when they can be treated. This can save your sight and is why regular checks are so important.
If diabetic retinopathy isn’t detected and treated, symptoms that can occur later include:
  • blurred, patchy or distorted vision making it hard to read, watch television or recognise people
  • seeing spots or floaters
  • being overly sensitive to glare
  • difficulty seeing at night
  • sudden loss of vision.

Diabetes eye checks – what’s involved?

A diabetes eye check must involve looking at the retina in the back of your eye. This can be done by:
  • taking a photo of the back of your eyes by someone trained to use a retinal camera. This could be an optometrist, doctor or Aboriginal health worker
  • an examination of your retina by an optometrist or ophthalmologist (specialist eye doctor) using an ophthalmoscope.
Please note a doctor’s referral is not required to see an optometrist.

Not sure where to start?

Book an eye check appointment and sign up to KeepSight - easy!

Need further support?

Get in touch with us via the NDSS Helpline on 1800 637 700.

Resources

For more information about diabetes and eye health, visit:
 
  • Vision Initiative - Information available in English, Arabic, Burmese, Chinese Simplified (Mandarin), Chinese Traditional (Cantonese), Dari, Greek, Hazaragi, Italian, Tamil and Vietnamese.