Diabetes and eye examinations

Diabetes and eye examinations

Diabetes Centre

Diabetes and eye examinations

Eye disease is one of the long-term complications of diabetes. Two per cent of people who have had diabetes for 15 years become blind and about 10 per cent develop severe visual impairment.

It is therefore of the utmost importance that you take note of this information.
If you have diabetes, it does not necessarily mean that your sight will be affected, but there is a higher risk. If your diabetes is well controlled, then you are less likely to have problems, or they may be less serious. However, if there are complications that affect the eyes, then this may result in loss of sight.

As most sight loss due to diabetes can be prevented, it is vital that it be diagnosed early. All people with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, should have a comprehensive dilated eye examination at least once a year. This is extremely important, as you may not realise that there is anything wrong with your eyes until it is too late.

Diabetic eye disease may include:

  • Diabetic retinopathy – damage to the blood vessels in the retina caused by the high blood glucose levels.
  • Cataract – the clouding of the eye’s lens. Cataracts develop at an earlier age in people with diabetes.
  • Glaucoma – increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision. A person with diabetes is nearly twice as likely to get glaucoma as other adults.

During pregnancy, diabetic retinopathy may be a problem for women with diabetes. If you have diabetes and are pregnant, you should have a comprehensive dilated eye examination as soon as possible.

Apart from regular eye examinations and controlling your blood sugar, for good eye sight you should also maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, exercise regularly and quit smoking if you still do.

For more information, you can also contact the Diabetes Association of South Africa by telephone at 086 111 3913 or 021 425 4440, and via email at
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Diabetes Association of South Africa. www.diabetessa.co.za.
Eye Care for People With Diabetes. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/condition-15/diabetes/eye-care.
Top Five Steps to Help Prevent Diabetic Eye Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/top-five-diabetes-steps.

(Revised by M van Deventer)