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Diabetes and related eye conditions

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Diabetes is where the body is unable to convert sugar and other carbohydrates properly. Your body would normally convert food into a sugar called glucose and insulin in the body would convert this into energy. Also in diabetes the pancreas produces insufficient or no insulin at all.

With diabetes the body does not do these functions and the unused glucose builds up in the body. Symptoms of diabetes include

  • Blurred vision
  • excessive thirst
  • nausea or vomiting

  • tingling in hands/feet

  • loss of energy

  • skin injuries that take longer to heal

  • excessive urination

Two types of diabetes

Type 1 known as IDDM – Insulin dependent which usually starts in under 30’s body produces very little or no insulin and the condition is controlled using insulin injections.

Type 2 known as IDDM – Non insulin dependent usually occurs in over 40’sbody produces some insulin but not enough or the body does not use it correctly and can be controlled by tablets or insulin injections.

Related eye conditions

Due to diabetes some people suffer eye problems and it is advisable that regular eye tests are carried out. Complications in diabetic condition can lead to eye sight loss although most conditions that are well controlled will help to prevent this. Early detection of sight loss related to diabetes if found early enough can be treated. Temporary blurred vision can be a sign of diabetes and is treatable.

The pupil (lens) at the front of the eye adjusts to allow you to focus objects on your retina at the back of the eye. The tissue within the retina is light sensitive and contains many small blood vessels. The macula (which is minute) is at the centre of the retina allows you to see very fine detail as in writing, reading and colour recognition. Your peripheral vision (side vision) comes from the other parts of the retina. The gap at the front of the retina is filled with vitreous jelly (a clear jelly like substance)

Cataracts may develop in a younger person with diabetes ( normally only present in older people). The lens in the eye becomes cloudy and vision blurred. A small operation to replace the cloudy lens can help the eye to function normally again.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes can affect the intricate network of tiny blood vessels that are in the retina and the damage can vary in individual conditions. This eye condition is known as diabetic retinopathy and can present itself normally in someone who has had diabetes over a long period. Blood vessels may swell a little and leak some fluid. Blood vessels in the retina are not seriously affected and eyesight will be normal.


The macula becomes affected and your central vision deteriorates slowly. It may be hard to read small print and see faces clearly from a distance, very rarely a person may lose all their sight.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy

Blood vessels may become blocked as the condition of the eye deteriorates, but the body will produce new vessels to try to maintain a blood supply to the retina. The replacement blood vessels are not as strong as the original vessels and can grow on the surface of the retina and in the vitreous gel. This can result in scar tissue to form as bleeding occurs. This scarring may pull or distort the retina (retina detachment).

Most common symptoms of retinal detachment are :

  • shadowed vision

  • bright flashes of light

  • showers of dark spots in vision

Self help tips

  • Get regular eye checks annually as some eye problems can be treated but must be caught in early stages

  • always get regular health checks to monitor your condition (blood pressure and cholesterol)

  • reduce smoking as this will increase the chances of complications with sight loss

  • try to control blood sugar levels

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