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Diabetes and Eye Problems
Diabetes can cause various eye problems. If your blood sugar is poorly controlled, you may experience blurring of vision. This will go away when your diabetes is under control. Conversely, there may be temporary slight deterioration of vision as blood sugar comes under control with treatment.
Also, people with diabetes tend to have cataracts earlier than people without diabetes. This is because high blood sugar over many years damages the lens of the eye.
Most importantly, however, diabetes also causes diabetic retinopathy, which is the most common cause of blindness in Singapore.
The retina, which is at the back of the eye, is responsible for sending clear images to the brain. Diabetes can damage the retina by making the blood vessels there leaky. This can result in blindness if not detected early and treated.
The risk of diabetic retinopathy increases with the duration of diabetes. Up to 50% of people with diabetes for more than 20 years will have some form of diabetic retinopathy. You can have diabetic retinopathy even if your vision is normal now.
How do I prevent Blindness?
Good diabetic control has been shown to delay or prevent the onset of diabetic retinopathy.
However, all diabetics should have their eyes screened by a doctor once a year to detect early diabetic retinopathy. This can be done conveniently and painlessly by retinal photography, which produces instant colour photographs of your retina.
The photographs are then seen by your doctor who will refer you to an eye specialist for treatment if there is diabetic retinopathy on the photographs.
If you are a diabetic and have not had your eyes checked regularly, do it as soon as possible.
This service is offered at the Diabetes Centre as well as government polyclinics. The procedure is illustrated below and takes no more than 10 minutes. As the pictures are captured on Polaroid film, the results will be immediately available to the doctor.
How is Diabetic Retinopathy Treated?
If you have been found to have diabetic retinopathy, you will be advised to see a specialist eye doctor, who will then decide on the best management for your eyes.
This may involve laser treatment of the retina, which has been shown to be effective in preventing blindness from diabetic retinopathy.