How Opticians Can Diagnose Diabetes

testing room

Eye examinations are crucial for everyone; they are a simple way to check the overall health of your eyes and whether you may need glasses. But something you may not realise is that an optician can pick up on a whole range of health problems through carrying out an eye exam. Not just minor eye conditions (MECs) such as dry eye or infections yet, but as well as this a simple eye test can unearth a number of serious health conditions such as dementia and diabetes.

Sadly, many seem to put off going to the optician if they feel that their vision has not significantly changed. Comprehensive eye exams are highly important for a variety of reasons. Your eyesight might change very gradually over time, and you may not have noticed this or noticed that you require a stronger prescription. Your optician will also perform several tests during the eye examination that will rule out eye disorders such as glaucoma, cataracts or any retinal problems.

The eyes are often referred to as the windows to the soul, they share emotions - happiness, sadness, surprise and everything in between. They can also share information about your health. For instance, if the whites of the eyes are yellow, liver disease may be the culprit. If they’re red and watery, it could be a sign of an allergic reaction, hay-fever or symptoms of a cold or flu.

With plenty of health information apparent on the eye’s exterior, try to imagine what is discoverable when you go beyond beneath the surface. If an eye doctor can detect issues early, especially one that is as prevalent and treatable such as diabetes, then it may lead to more promising outcomes.

This blog looks into whether an optician can detect diabetes during a test. You’ll discover facts about the connection between eyes and diabetes, so you can make informed decisions regarding your visual health.

What is the correlation between your eyesight and diabetes?

In the UK, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK is estimated to be 3.5 million. Taking this into consideration the amount of people likely to be living with undiagnosed diabetes is likely over 4 million. This disease triggers an individual to have far too much glucose within their body which can lead to major health issues.

Renowned optical issues that are connected to diabetes are sometimes referred to as “Diabetic Eye Diseases.” These problems include retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts which can negatively impact your ability to see, cataracts are much more likely to happen in individuals who have experienced diabetes, age is also a strong contributing factor.

When glaucoma is attached to a case of diabetes, it happens after diabetic retinopathy has already progressed. Moreover, it goes without saying that the disease that is most closely associated with diabetes is retinopathy.

How can diabetes cause blurry vision?

Diabetic retinopathy is a medical term that describes retinal disorders brought on by diabetes. Some of these disorders include macular edema and proliferative retinopathy.

Macular edema is when the macula swells up due to leaking fluids. The macula is the part of the retina that gives you sharp and distinctive central vision. Other symptoms of macular edema include waved vision and color alterations.

Proliferative retinopathy occurs when blood vessels leak into the center of your eyeball. Blurred vision is one of the main signs that this has occurred. You may also experience spots or floaters, and perhaps have trouble with night vision.

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in the UK.

Symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Floaters
  • Slow or rapid loss of eyesight

What is it?

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye condition and can cause blindness. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue located at the rear of the eye and diabetic retinopathy can create changes within the blood vessels that feed the retina. These blood vessels can swell up and leak fluids or abnormal blood vessels can grow on the surface of the retina, eventually causing vision loss.

Anyone with diabetes, whether that is type 1 or 2 is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Up to 45% of diagnosed diabetics experience some stage of the condition.

How can it be detected?

Standard eye exams won’t detect diabetic retinopathy but an optician will be able to pick up on any suspicious activity and refer you on toy an ophthalmologist or optometrist can detect it. The NEI recommends an annual dilated exam for:

  • Those who are 60 or older
  • Ethnic minorities after age 40 due to their higher incidence of glaucoma
  • People who are diabetic

Eye exams that can help detect diabetes?


This permits your eye doctor to see to the back of the eye and locate where the retina and optic nerve is. An ophthalmoscope is a magnifying tool that is used to examine the eye to detect abnormalities.

A slit-lamp exam

This involves using a microscope and light source to gain a 3-D view the inner and outer eye. This is sometimes used with an ophthalmoscope to complete an exam.

Optical coherence tomography

This exam detects fluid in your retina and picks up on signs of damage that could indicate diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma or macular degeneration. Before the test, dilating drops are used to widen the pupil so light beams can be focused on the back of the eye.

How frequently should you have an eye check?

It's recommended that you have an eye check-up once every 2 years or once per year if you are under 16, over 70 or suffer from diabetes. The process is very straightforward and can potentially do much more for you than just prescribing new lenses.

How do I know if I have a problem?

There are frequently no symptoms until the condition reaches a later phase, when changes in vision will become recognisable. If you get diagnosed with diabetes you are then eligible for a free eye check every year in addition to this people with diabetes who are over the age of 12 are encouraged to attend free annual screenings. The purpose of the screening is to have a photograph taken of the back of the eye will be taken that will show any signs of the condition.

How to prevent serious eye damage

It’s highly unlikely that an individual with diabetes will just wake up blind, as previously mentioned the damage is gradual. Due to this, it’s highly possible for many people to have treatment to slow down or prevent eye problems from getting progressively worse.

The next steps to take?

Although an ophthalmologist or optometrist can use specific tests to detect signs of diabetes, without the right exam and a qualified optometrist - the warning signs that point to diabetes can go undetected.

In order to maintain your health, you must schedule frequent appointments with your eye doctor and share any health changes that you have noticed since your last appointment.

Establish a relationship with your optician, who is trained to treat and give a professional opinion into your eyes and overall health, they will be able to detect changes in your eye that could be a sign of serious health issues.

Here David Paul Opticians , we offer professional eye care in Berkhamsted and across Hertfordshire, as well as designer frames and contact lenses. As experienced opticians, we tailor our services to meet your eye care needs. As we get older, it's common to have issues with eyesight, that is why getting your eyes tested is so important. Our highly trained and fully qualified staff can read the OCT test results accurately to prescribe the most effective form of treatment for you particular situation. To find out more get in touch.