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Eyes

Diabetes can damage your eyes and affect your eyesight. If left untreated, eye problems can lead to poor eyesight and even blindness. The sooner that problems are detected and treated, the better the result.

If the damage is detected before it affects your sight, treatment can prevent blindness. Where blindness has already occurred, treatment can only stop it from getting worse.

Read more in our fact sheet Looking after your eyes.

Looking after your eyes

To look after your eyes and help prevent poor eyesight or blindness:

  • have your eyes checked regularly, at least every two years, to pick up early signs of damage
  • control your blood glucose levels
  • maintain a healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • if you notice any changes in your eyesight, seek treatment to stop it from getting worse.

Who checks your eyes?

Your doctor
Initially, your doctor may check your eyes. Your doctor will support you in your day-to-day diabetes management and will your contact person if you need to be referred to other specialist health care team members as needed.

Optometrist
An optometrist may be involved in the ongoing management of your eye health. You do not need a referral to see an optometrist. Optometrists diagnose and manage any diabetes-related eye complications. If they can detect any changes in your eye health, they will report these to your doctor and, if necessary, you will then be referred to an ophthalmologist.

Ophthalmologist
An ophthalmologist (medical eye specialist) may also be involved in the ongoing management of your condition. An ophthalmologist will be involved if specialised medical care or treatment is required, such as laser surgery or other specialist procedures to improve vision or to prevent loss of vision. You need a referral to see an ophthalmologist.

When to have eye checks

If you have diabetes, your eyes are at risk of damage from diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to sight loss if  not treated. Eye screening is a key part of your diabetes care.

Have regular eyes checks by an optometrist or an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) to look for early signs of damage. If you notice any changes in your vision in between your routine eye checks, discuss this with your optometrist, eye specialist or doctor.

Routine eye checks
How oftenChecks to carry out
When first diagnosed with diabetesEye examination—with doctor or optometrist
Every 2 yearsEye examination—with optometrist or ophthalmologist

KeepSight—a new national eye screening program

KeepSight is designed to make it easier for people with diabetes to get their eyes checked and avoid eye problems that can lead to eyesight problems and blindness.

Find out more at keepsight.org.au

How are you going with your diabetes health checks?

Regular checks can help prevent serious diabetes complications like problems with your feet, eyes, heart and kidneys. Individual members of your health care team will let you know how often you need checks, so you can schedule them into your calendar.

Eye changes in people with diabetes

Diabetes can sometimes cause the focusing ability of the eye to weaken or to fluctuate from day to day. The problem eases when blood glucose levels are stable. Diabetes can also cause more serious changes in the eyes, primarily through its effects on the blood vessels in the retina.

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that can damage the tiny blood vessels inside the retina at the back of the eye. This can cause bleeding and swelling in the retina and seriously affect vision, and in some cases cause blindness.

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy

In its early stages, there may be no symptoms, as the damaged areas may only affect the edge of the retina. An eye test can detect the condition before you notice any changes to your vision. As retinopathy progresses, symptoms can include:

  • blurred or distorted vision (that is not improved with prescription glasses)
  • difficulty seeing at night
  • seeing floating spots or flashes
  • sensitivity to light and glare.

More information

For more information on eye health or care, contact: