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Diabetes can affect your eye in a number of ways:

  • The most serious eye condition associated with diabetes involves the network of blood vessels supplying the retina. This condition is called diabetic retinopathy.
  • The unusual changes in blood sugar levels resulting from diabetes can affect the lens inside the eye, especially when diabetes is uncontrolled. This can result in blurring of vision which comes and goes over the day, depending on your blood sugar levels.
  • A longer-term effect of diabetes is that the lens of your eye can go cloudy, this is called a cataract.

Not everyone who has diabetes develops an eye complication. Of those that do, many people have a very mild form of retinopathy which may never progress to a sight threatening condition.

Diabetic retinopathy

The most serious complication of diabetes for your eye is the development of diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes affects the tiny blood vessels of your eye and if they become blocked or leak then the retina, and possibly your vision, will be affected. The extent of these changes determines what type of diabetic retinopathy you have. Forty per cent of people with type 1 diabetes and 20 per cent with type 2 diabetes will develop some sort of diabetic retinopathy. cataract.

Background diabetic retinopathy

This is the most common type of diabetic retinopathy and many people who have had diabetes for some time will have this early type. The blood vessels in the retina are only very mildly affected, they may bulge slightly (microaneurysm) and may leak blood (haemorrhages) or fluid (exudates). As long as the macula is not affected, vision is normal and you will not be aware that anything is wrong. Your retinal screening test will keep a close check on these early changes and ensure that any signs of progression to more serious stages of retinopathy are detected early.

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