Did you know that anyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy? This occurs when there is a weakening or swelling of the tiny blood vessels in the retina of your eye, resulting in blood leakage, the growth of new blood vessels, and other changes. According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, retinopathy affects 23% of type 1 diabetics on insulin therapy and 14% of people with type 2 diabetes.

At first, diabetic retinopathy may cause no symptoms or only mild vision problems, but eventually it can cause changes in nearsightedness, farsightedness, and lead to blindness. Early signs of diabetic retinopathy may include:

  • Loss of central vision
  • Blurry vision
  • Flashes of light in field of vision
  • Inability to see colours
  • Black spots or holes in vision

The less controlled one’s blood sugar is and the longer one has had diabetes, the more likely they are to develop diabetic retinopathy. If your blood glucose level (blood sugar) is too high for too long, it blocks off the small blood vessels that keep the retina healthy.

As many as one million Canadians are living with undiagnosed diabetes. Many assume that a visit to a general practitioner is the only way to diagnose diabetes; however, a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist can lead to early detection of diabetes, reduce the risk of vision loss, and minimize the risk of other life threatening complications such as heart disease and kidney failure.

Optometrists can often see indicators of diabetes in the eyes before the disease is formally diagnosed. To learn more about the impact that diabetes may have on your eye, book regular appointments with a local doctor of optometry.