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Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin, or because the insulin produced has insufficient effect. If you have diabetes your body cannot cope in the usual way with sugar and other carbohydrates that you may eat. Nearly one in every 25 people in the UK are diabetic. Some children develop diabetes, but it mostly occurs later in life.

How does diabetes affect my eyes?

Diabetes can affect your eyes in a number of ways.

The most serious way that diabetes can affect your eyes is by affecting the blood vessels that supply the retina. This is called diabetic retinopathy.

The changes in blood sugar levels caused by diabetes affect the lens of the eye, especially if your diabetes is uncontrolled. It causes blurry vision which comes and goes over the day as your blood sugar moves up and down.

Diabetes can also cause cataracts.

Annual diabetic eye screening

If you have diabetes this does not necessarily mean that your sight will be affected. If your diabetes is well controlled you are less likely to have problems, or they may be less serious.

Most of the complications that diabetes causes in the eye can be treated, but it is vital that they are diagnosed early. They can only be detected by a detailed examination of your eyes. A picture is often taken using a digital retinal camera and this is looked at in detail to see if there are any changes caused by diabetes.

As you may not be aware that there is anything wrong with your eyes until it is too late, having this regular test is essential. Research shows that if retinopathy is identified early, and treated appropriately, blindness can be prevented in 90 per cent of those at risk.

Treatment for diabetic retinopathy

Most sight-threatening problems caused by diabetic retinopathy can be managed by laser treatment if detected early enough. The aim of laser treatment is to prevent bleeding or to prevent the growth of new blood vessels.