Everything you should know about diabetes and vision

Diabetic retinopathy is the main visual complication of diabetes, but not the only one, as there are other associated disorders such as macular oedema, retinal detachment, glaucoma and cataracts

1. It is estimated that there are 290 million diabetics in the world and more than 3 million in Spain.

2. Type 1 diabetes affects 10% of patients, while the rest suffer from Type 2.

3. More than half of diabetic patients who have suffered from the disease for 15 or more years have some degree of retinal vascular disorder.

Retina with diabetic retinopathy before the laser intervention
Retina with diabetic retinopathy after the laser intervention

4. Almost all patients who have suffered from diabetes for more than 30 years shows signs of diabetic retinopathy.

5. In general, these patients are up to 25 times more likely to suffer total vision loss than a non-diabetic person.

6. The main measures that diabetic patients can take to prevent or delay the onset of diabetic retinopathy include strictly controlling blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol and not smoking.

7. A first ophthalmic examination should be carried out on children over the age of 10 with more than 3-5 years of diabetes, adults and adolescents with Type 2 diabetes soon after diagnosis, and adults and adolescents with Type 1 diabetes 5 years after diagnosis. After the initial examination, all patients should have an annual ophthalmic check-up.

8. The degree of severity of the diabetes, the amount of time since onset and the level of monitoring by patients are three determining factors in the onset of diabetic retinopathy and its degree of severity.

9. Diabetic retinopathy is the main visual complication of diabetes, but not the only one, as there are other associated disorders such as macular oedema, retinal detachment, glaucoma and cataracts.

10. Diabetic retinopathy is one of the main causes of severe vision loss in the Western world.

11. Diabetic retinopathy generally has no symptoms until damage to the eye is severe.

12. Symptoms include blurred vision, the appearance of floaters (small spots), shadows, areas of lost vision, difficulty in seeing at night, eye pain and/or headaches.

13. Before symptoms appear, almost all cases of diabetic retinopathy can be diagnosed through a retina examination.

14. Current treatments (laser photocoagulation, intravitreal injections, vitrectomy) manage to stop vision loss, but, in most cases, lost vision cannot be recovered.

Prevention advice

To mark World Diabetes Day, which will take place on 14 November, IMO Foundation and the Catalonian Diabetics Association (ADC), on Tuesday, 13 November at 6.30 pm, will be hosting an event in which different aspects relating to diabetes and its relationship with eye problems will be discussed.

Dr Manel Puig, head of the Endocrinology Department of Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital (Can Ruti) and director of the Rossend Carrasco i Formiguera Foundation, will open the event with a lecture entitled “Diabetes: Where we are and where we are going” and will participate in a panel discussion alongside IMO’s retina specialists, José García-Arumí, Carlos Mateo, Rafael Navarro and Anniken Burés, and also the retina specialist and IMO medical director, Dr Borja Corcóstegui.