Eye health and diabetes 27 June 2023 Diabetes is a chronic health condition affecting millions of people worldwide. Among the many areas of the body affected by diabetes complications, due to sustained high blood glucose levels, the eyes are particularly vulnerable. It is crucial to shed light on the strong link between diabetes and eye health, as well as to emphasise the importance of proactive care and regular eye examinations. Diabetic retinopathy, a condition caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina, is the most common eye complication associated with diabetes. When blood glucose levels remain consistently high over time, the tiny blood vessels in the retina can become weak, leak, or even block blood flow altogether. This can lead to vision impairment and, if left untreated, potentially blindness. Aside from diabetic retinopathy, diabetes can also increase the risk of other eye conditions, such as glaucoma and cataracts. Additionally, people living with diabetes are more prone to developing dry eyes, a condition characterised by inadequate tear production, leading to discomfort, higher risk of eye infections, and potential damage to the cornea. Early detection and prevention The good news is that with accessible and good care, the risk and severity of diabetes eye complications can be significantly reduced. Maintaining safe and stable blood glucose levels is essential in safeguarding eye health. Looking after and or getting support for our social and emotional wellbeing, taking diabetes medication as prescribed, getting enough sleep and the regular diabetes related health checks, enjoying regular activity and a well-balanced diet, can all help to manage diabetes effectively. Regular eye examinations play a pivotal role in the early detection of diabetes eye complications. People living with diabetes should have a comprehensive eye examination at least once a year. These exams allow eye care professionals to assess the health of the retina and identify any signs of retinopathy or other diabetes-related eye problems in their early stages. Early intervention can preserve vision and prevent further damage. KeepSight is a diabetes eye check reminder program run by Diabetes Australia. It helps people living with diabetes to remember when their eye checks are due. People living with diabetes can join themselves, or ask their eye care provider to sign them up for reminders when they have an eye check. The KeepSight website also provides a ‘find a provider’ function to help people find an eye care provider near them. Health care professionals who would like to work with KeepSight to encourage their patients to have regular diabetes eye checks and increase service or practice recall, can become a KeepSight partner. For more information contact: [email protected]. Health-supportive Lifestyle Behaviours and Care = Healthy Eyes: In addition to medical management and regular eye check-ups, adopting health-supportive lifestyle behaviours can help overall eye health for people living with diabetes: Stopping or reducing smoking: Smoking significantly increases the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Quitting smoking is an important step toward protecting blood vessels, and improving both general and eye health Blood pressure and cholesterol management: High blood pressure and cholesterol levels aren’t great for blood vessel health, and can worsen eye problems for people living with diabetes. Taking blood pressure and cholesterol medications if prescribed, quitting smoking, moving regularly and enjoying whole foods can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels Regular exercise: Regular exercise helps manage blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of diabetes eye complications, along with improves circulation and mood Nutrient rich eating pattern: Enjoying where possible a diet rich in whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats/meat alternatives, milk and yoghurt, helps maintain a healthy mind and body including immune system. Including foods rich in antioxidants, such as dark leafy greens, berries, and nuts, can help protect the eyes from damage caused by oxidative stress The importance of looking after our eyes when living with diabetes can’t be understated. Awareness, prevention, and proactive diabetes management and care, saves vision. By managing diabetes effectively, maintaining safe and stable blood glucose levels, and having regular eye examinations, people living with diabetes can prevent or slow diabetes-related vision loss. Incorporating health-supportive lifestyle behaviours where possible, including good sleep patterns and behaviours and care that support social emotional wellbeing, a nutritious diet and regular activity, further supports good eye health. For more information on diabetes education for the health workforce and or people living with or at risk of diabetes, please head to the Diabetes Australia website here or call the NDSS Helpline on 1800 637 700 to speak with a health professional.