Diabetes and the Eye
Diabetes, which is a very common disease affecting a large and increasing number of Australians, occurs in a number of forms. Juvenile, as the name implies, affects young people, while adult onset occurs later in life. Early warning signs can include fatigue, weight loss, increased thirst and urination.
Diabetes affects many parts of the body, including the eye. Some of these conditions are evident at the start of the disease, while others occur later. For example, blurring of vision caused by an atypical change in the focus of the eye may be the first observable symptom. In these cases the optometrist or ophthalmologist would refer the patient to the GP to rule out the possibility of diabetes. Later complications of the disease include cataracts which affect the lens inside the eye and diabetic retinopathy which causes changes to the retina. While cataracts can be treated very effectively, diabetic retinopathy presents a more serious problem as, despite treatment, loss of vision can occur, sometimes leading to blindness. Diabetes can also have an effect on the eye muscles, resulting in double vision.
Because there are no external signs, diabetic eye disease can only be detected by examining the inside of the eye. For this reason diabetics should undergo a dilated eye examination annually or biennially, depending on the recommendation of the eye care professional.