Over one million Australians have diabetes yet around half of these people are undiagnosed! Optometrists play a vital role in helping to detect diabetes in the early stages when it will respond best to treatment. So what is the optometrist’s role in diabetes?
What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy occurs due to damage to the blood vessels in the retina, located at the back of the eye. It is usually a progression of diabetes when it has been present for some years. The retina is important because it produces a picture for the brain to interpret. If undiagnosed or left untreated it can cause serious eye damage including blurred vision and, in severe cases, blindness.
Who is at risk?
Everyone with diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. The risks increase if you:
- Have had diabetes for many years. The incidence of diabetes increases with age and because it is a progressive disease up to 70% of people with diabetes will develop changes in their eyes within 15 years of diagnosis.
- Have uncontrolled diabetes or high blood sugar levels.
- Have diabetes in conjunction to high blood pressure, high blood fats and kidney issues.
- Are pregnant.
Importance of early detection
Early detection of diabetic retinopathy is vital to slow the progression of the condition, avoid complications and prevent vision loss. Symptoms can included blurred vision, double vision, focusing problems, poor night vision, dry eyes and sensitivity to glare. However in some cases there are no early warning signs of diabetic retinopathy.
What is the optometrist’s role in diabetes?
Your optometrist will be able to:
- Identify patients at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy
- Detect diabetic retinopathy early so that it can treated effectively. Early intervention results in a much better outcome for your eyes.
- Monitor patient’s eyes for any vision changes or progression of the condition
- Increase patient’s awareness and understanding of the disease
- Provide suitable referrals to specialists if needed
What you need to do?
- See your optometrist regularly to have your eyes tested. We recommend seeing your optometrist every two years. If you have diabetes you should have eye examinations more frequently as recommended by your optometrist.
- Control your blood-glucose level.
- If your vision has change see your optometrist as early as possible to avoid any further damage.
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