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Diabetes and your Eyes

Did you know that an eye exam can be the first clue to identifying diabetes and other hidden health concerns? Finding these issues early can give patients a better chance at preventing damage through early treatment and management.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is defined as a group of diseases characterised by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body's ability to produce and/or use insulin.

One of the well-known effects of diabetes is eye and vision damage caused by diabetic retinopathy. This means that delicate blood vessels in the eye swell or bleed. They may also grow abnormally on the retina itself. This allows unprocessed blood sugars, fats, and proteins to leak out of weakened blood vessels. That's what damages the retina and can cause vision loss.

Some surprising facts about diabetes.

  • More than 346 million people worldwide have diabetes.
  • 210,000 people in Ireland have diabetes.
  • Diabetic retinopathy accounts for 12% of all new cases of blindness in Ireland each year and is the leading cause of blindness in patients between 20 and 65 years of age.
  • Diabetes is predicted to become the seventh leading cause of death in the world by the year 2030.
  • Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness.
  • After 15 years of diabetes, approximately 2% of people become blind, and about 10% develop severe visual impairment.
  • Lifestyle risks for diabetes are physical inactivity, poor diet, and obesity.
  • Genetics, ethnicity, and geographical location can influence risk factors.
  • Others at higher risk include older individuals, those with gestational diabetes, and babies weighing more than nine pounds at birth

Roughly 90% of diabetes-related blindness can be avoided by getting an annual eye exam.

Sources:
World Health Organization; 2007-08 ABS National Health Survey; AIHW 2007
LaserVision; Diabetic Eye Related Conditions