Vision loss and diabetes

Vision loss and diabetes

Your eyes are at work from the moment you wake up, to the moment you close them to go to sleep. Your vision allows you to be aware of your surroundings, and 80% of everything you learn is through your sight.  

For people living with diabetes, vision loss is a major complication. It can cause both short- and long-term eye problems. The risk of serious, more permanent eye problems increases when you have high blood glucose levels over a long period of time, or if your blood pressure or cholesterol levels are high. Other risk factors for eye disease include smoking, alcohol, diet, ageing, excess screen time, and being overweight. 

To reduce your risk of developing eye problems: 

  • Aim for blood glucose levels and blood pressure as close to your target ranges as possible and try to avoid large glucose jumps from low to really high, and vice versa.  
  • Keep your cholesterol level within the recommended range.  
  • See your optometrist or ophthalmologist annually, or as soon as you notice any changes in your vision.   
  • Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, try to quit. If you feel you can’t give up smoking on your own, ask for help from your doctor or call Quitline on 13 78 48. 

Symptoms such as blurred vision and vision loss are hard to cope with and have been linked to an increase in loneliness, worry and depression – all of which can make it harder to look after your diabetes. It is important to speak to a psychologist or social worker if the health of your eyes is causing you anxiety.  

When your vision is impaired it can impact your ability to manage your diabetes effectively. Tasks such as reading your blood glucose monitor or checking food labels become much more difficult. There are some low-vision aids and strategies that you can use including magnifying glasses and devices, large-print materials, optimising lighting, and using audio-assisted devices.  

There are also a range of blood glucose meters (link to BGMs) that are not only larger in size and easier to hold, but also have larger buttons and display readings. Some, such as the CareSens N Voice, even have talking function that can read out your results! 

For all these reasons, when you live with diabetes, it is even more important to have your eyes checked on a regular basis by an optometrist. If you notice any changes to your sight you should make an appointment immediately, otherwise check in with your eye care specialist at least every year or two.  

If you want a reminder, consider signing up to KeepSight. KeepSight is the national diabetes eye check reminder program, run by Diabetes Australia. It provides reminders when your diabetes eye checks are due and can also help you find a KeepSight eye care provider near you. 

Signing up to KeepSight is a great way keep track of your eye checks – early detection and treatment saves sight. 

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