Eye problems are among the most significant complications of diabetes, and eye problems from diabetes are the most common cause of blindness in people of working age.
Diabetic retinopathy is when the small blood vessels in your retina leak blood and fluid into the retina. Although this does not affect your vision in the early stages, if it is left untreated it may lead to sight loss.
You can reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by keeping your blood sugar under control as much as you can.
Screening for diabetic retinopathy
With a few exceptions, the NHS arranges for all people who have diabetes and are aged 12 and over to be invited to have screening for diabetic retinopathy. This is to reduce the risk of sight loss, so it is important that you have the screening done if you are eligible. The screening involves putting drops in your eyes to make your pupils larger. You will then have photographs taken of the retina at the back of your eye. It is very important that you have this done regularly, as early detection of diabetic retinopathy means that treatment is more effective. Most people will need to have the screening done every year. If you have not been invited to have your retinal screening done within the past 12 months you should speak to your general practitioner (GP) about this.
The retinal screening only checks to see if you have diabetic retinopathy. It does not check for other eye diseases such as cataracts or glaucoma. It is therefore important that you continue to have regular eye examinations with your optometrist to make sure that you can see clearly and comfortably, and also that you have no other eye disease. Your optometrist will tell you how often you should have this done.