EXPERTS are reminding people of the importance of regular eye tests to support World Diabetes Day (14 November).
The advice comes from Specsavers Ópticas as part of their awareness-raising activities for World Diabetes Day. Lisa James from Specsavers Ópticas in Guardamar explains that many people with diabetes do not get any symptoms, which means it can take up to 10 years before they are diagnosed. However, if it is left untreated it can cause damage to the eyes, heart, kidneys, and feet.
Lisa explains: ‘14.8% of adults in Spain are living with diabetes – that’s over 5 million people. Almost a third (30.3%) of people living with diabetes in Spain are undiagnosed and at risk of developing serious eye health complications and even sight loss.
‘Diabetes is one of the fastest growing health conditions today – fuelled by record levels of obesity, excessive sugar consumption, and sedentary lifestyles. Last year the International Diabetes Foundation (IDF) revealed that Spain has the second-highest diabetes prevalence in Europe and has seen a 42% increase in the number of people with diabetes in just two years. If we continue to ignore the risk of developing type 2 diabetes as a result, we can only expect to see the number of cases escalate.
‘Around 1 in 3 people with diabetes develop some form of eye health complication, according to the IDF. However, when we conducted a survey last year, a quarter of the respondents were not aware that diabetes can affect your eye health.’
How diabetes affects your eyes
A complication of diabetes is diabetic retinopathy, which can occur when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the back of the eye. If left untreated it can cause blindness.
Judith Borland from Specsavers Ópticas Fuengirola adds: ‘Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness in working age adults, even in developed countries, so it’s hugely important that diabetes is detected early and monitored correctly to minimise the risk of avoidable sight loss.
‘At Specsavers Ópticas, they offer digital retinal photography free of charge as part of a standard eye test for customers aged over 40. This takes a detailed picture of the back of your eye allowing the blood vessels to be monitored more closely – helping to detect any signs of diabetes that might be present.’
As diabetic retinopathy is a serious condition it is important to monitor any changes in your vision and get them checked by your optometrist. The warning signs include:
Persistent floaters – Judith says: ‘Floaters are spots in your vision and usually look like black or grey specs or cobwebs that drift about when you move your eyes. Most people will experience floaters in their vision at some point in their life – particularly as we reach older age as the jelly-like substance in our eyes becomes more liquid.
‘If you notice more eye floaters than usual, a sudden onset of new ones, flashes of light in the eye or darkness on any side of your vision, you must get it looked at immediately as in some cases it can be a symptom of diabetic retinopathy.’
Blurred vision – ‘Blurred vision can be caused by many things and it is vital you get it checked out,’ says Judith. ‘Blurry vision can also be a symptom of diabetes which can resolve when blood sugars start to reduce after diagnosis and starting treatment. It can also lead to dimmer vision, as if you’re wearing sunglasses, or struggling to see when it’s dark, which are important signs not to ignore.’
There are Specsavers Ópticas stores on the Costa Blanca, Costa del Sol and in Mallorca. To find out more or book your next appointment visit www.specsavers.es