Diabetes can lead to several problems in the eye, the most significant of which is diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among working age adults in Australia. The longer a person has diabetes, the greater their risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.
- Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of preventable blindness in working age people in Australia and is considered to be a significant health threat worldwide.
- Almost 1.1 million Australians have diagnosed (known) diabetes.
- Of these, over 300,000 have some degree of diabetic retinopathy, and about 65,000 have progressed to sight-threatening eye disease.
- Most people with diabetic retinopathy should keep most, if not all vision, providing it is diagnosed early and all steps are taken to keep it under control.
Most people consider sight to be their most precious sense so it is critical to be aware of the risk of diabetic eye disease and to understand how to prevent its onset. For those who already have diabetic eye disease, there are steps to take to reduce the risk of further vision loss:
Important! When you see your eye health professional, make sure you explain that you have diabetes and how long you have had it.
- If you have diabetes, visit an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) or an optometrist at least every two years for a comprehensive, dilated eye exam.
- People with diabetes with additional risk factors (eg high blood pressure, poor diabetes control), including indigenous people, need to have an eye check at least every 12 months, even if vision appears to be perfect.
- People with existing diabetic eye disease need to have an eye check every 12 months, even if vision appears to be perfect, or more frequently if disease is advanced.
- Be guided by the eye health professional, and do not cancel or delay appointments unless absolutely essential.
- The longer you have had diabetes, the more important it is to have regular eye tests, even if the tests have always been clear in the past. This is because the risk of eye disease is strongly related to the duration of diabetes.