If you have been diagnosed with diabetes it can be a frightening prospect, however, it is not inevitable that it will ultimately cause blindness. Here, one of our leading ophthalmologists Ms Theresa Richardson explains the link between diabetes and impaired vision, and what preventative measures you can take.
How can a diabetic patient reduce their risk of visual impairment?
Diabetic patients have a part to play in preventing blindness. If they control their blood sugars very well, looking not only at short-term but long-term blood sugar control, or HbA1c, they can reduce this risk by a huge amount.
In the UK, we have a national programme that screens all diabetics, which is incredibly effective. We have reduced blindness from diabetes in the working population as the number one cause.
How can diabetes cause blindness?
I don’t use the word ‘blindness’ as this is a very emotive term, so I prefer to say impaired sight. Vision loss is caused by either of two mechanisms:
- Bleeding into the cavity of the eye from tiny blood vessels that grew in response to diabetes.
Blood vessels in the back of the eye can get coated in sugar. The blood supply to the retina is reduced so your body produces the hormone vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which makes new blood vessels. These can suddenly bleed, cause floaters and loss of vision. The treatment for this is laser surgery.
- Fluid accumulates in the centre of the retina and makes vision a bit cloudy, especially for reading. It is very treatable with eye injections.
What is your overall advice?
The take-home message is to ensure that your eyes are often screened for new vessels and fluid in your retina, to prevent you from going blind from diabetes. Having worked in this field for 30 years with vigilant care and timely intervention I have prevented thousands of patients from losing vision and recovered patients who thought they had irreversible vision loss.
Do not hesitate to book an appointment with Ms Richardson now via her Top Doctor’s profile, if you would like her expert advice about diabetic retinopathy, in your case.