If you're one of the estimated 1.2 million Australians with diabetes, you're probably rather vigilant when it comes to managing the condition. Your doctor will advise whether you need to have regular medical assessments with them, but a lot of your care will be self-managed. Much of this self-management is related to diet and exercise, and you will be mindful of any suspected changes to your condition—essentially whether the condition seems to be worsening. Even with exemplary self-management, your condition can cause physical problems and a common issue associated with diabetes is diabetic eye disease. This is an umbrella term used to describe a variety of vision-related problems that can be caused by or exacerbated by diabetes. So what are some warning signs of diabetic eye disease? And what can you do if you believe you're being affected?

Diabetic Eye Disease

There are two key types of diabetic eye disease. All types of this disease can lead to some vision loss, and if left untreated, can result in blindness.

  • Diabetic retinopathy occurs when your diabetes causes damage to the blood vessels in your retina. High blood pressure can cause these blood vessels to distort or even leak, clouding the retina.
  • Diabetic macular edema occurs when distorted or leaking blood vessels are focussed on the macula in your eye. The macula is near the centre of your overall retina.

Diabetes can also exacerbate cataracts and glaucoma, although it might not necessarily cause these conditions.

Early Detection

Whatever the type of diabetic eye disease that might affect you, the key strategy for stopping  it is early detection. This is why regular appointments with an optometrist are vital when you're managing your diabetes. A comprehensive eye examination will be able to spot the early warning signs of any form of diabetic eye disease. You should ask your doctor how often you need to go, although you don't need a referral. More effective self-management can stop the condition from worsening, but it's generally necessary to undergo treatment to repair the damage. This is why it's important to catch the problem early so that your vision will not be irreparably damaged. Laser eye surgery can be an option, as can a course of corticosteroid-based medication. This is a type of steroid hormone that can control the distortion or leakage of the blood vessels in your eyes.

A regular and comprehensive eye examination with an optometrist is about your best weapon when it comes to avoiding diabetic eye disease.