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Diabetes and our eyesight

The impact of diabetes on our vision

Diabetes and our eyesight

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that causes a person’s blood sugar levels to become too high and affects millions of people across the world each and every day. In the UK alone, over 4.9 million people currently have diabetes and by 2030, if things don’t improve, this figure is set to hit 5.5 million.  

Diabetes comes in two main forms, type 1 and type 2 with the latter being far more common, affecting 90% of adults in the UK with diabetes. Diabetes as a whole can have serious implications for your health and can lead to a variety of problems including vision loss and blindness, heart disease, nerve damage, miscarriage, kidney problems and also sexual problems. It is critical for both people with and without this condition to keep an eye on their blood sugar levels to ensure they are not at risk of developing or worsening their diabetes. 

The team at Lenstore has analysed the state of diabetes across the UK, the rest of the world, and created some visuals to highlight the serious implications this health condition can have on your vision.

Across the capital city, London has 559,517 people diagnosed with diabetes, making up nearly 7% of its population. Looking in more detail, these are the top ten boroughs with the highest prevalence of diabetes.

London Borough

% of people with diabetes

Number of people with diabetes

2030 prediction of people with diabetes 

Harrow

9.99%

22,103

221,359

Enfield

9.96%

26,914

29,264

Brent

9.27%

30,118

32,747

Redbridge

9.06%

23,443

25,490

Ealing

8.95%

32,605

35,451

Hounslow

8.6%

22,705

24,687

Newham

8.6%

28,415

30,896

Barking & Dagenham

8.57%

14,582

15,855

Hillingdon

7.98%

20,429

22,212

Havering

7.52%

16,845

18,429

Harrow and Enfield take the top two spots with the highest prevalence in each London borough at 10%. Whilst Enfield has slightly more cases with 26,914 compared to Harrow at 22,103, the research takes into account the population of each borough to where the highest prevalence is. Hammersmith and Fulham have the lowest prevalence of diabetes with just 3.62%, almost three times less than Harrow and Ealing. Richmond, Camden, Islington, and Wandsworth also all have a prevalence of below 5%.

 

The areas with the highest prevalence of diabetes in England include

Location

% of people with diabetes

Number of people with diabetes

2030 prediction of people with diabetes 

Bradford

11.14

12,420

13,504

Sandwell & West Birmingham

9.58

43,045

46,803

Hardwick

9.53

8,227

8,945

Leicester City

9.36

31,242

33,969

Walsall

9.33

21,104

22,946

North Kirklees

9.26

14,041

15,267

Lincolnshire East

8.96

18,810

20,452

West Norfolk

8.85

13,066

14,207

Blackburn with Darwen

8.85

12,158

13,219

Bradford Districts

8.74

22,598

24,571

Yorkshire’s third-largest city, Bradford, has the highest prevalence of Diabetes at 11.14%. With total cases reaching 12,420, by 2030 this figure is set to hit 13,504 in the next eight years. Midland areas including Sandwell & West Birmingham, Leicester City and Walsall also dominate the top 10 list of locations with the highest prevalence of diabetes. 

The south-east region including Brighton and Hove, Guildford and Waverley and Oxfordshire rank with the lowest prevalence all under 5%.

 

Diabetes prevalence across the globe

Diabetes poses a major health risk to people all across the globe, with some countries suffering from more cases than others. 

The countries with the highest prevalence of diabetes 

Country

% of people with diabetes

2030 prediction of people with diabetes 

2050 prediction of people with diabetes

Marshall Islands

30.5

56.7

104.2

Kiribati

22.5

41.9

77.3

Sudan

22.1

44.0

83.8

Tuvalu

22.1

32.1

50.3

Mauritius

22.0

29.1

42.0

New Caledonia

21.8

39.6

72.1

Pakistan

19.9

33.1

57.1

French Polynesia

19.5

26.5

39.1

Solomon Islands

19.0

38.2

73.1

Guam

18.7

33.4

60.0

Located in Oceania, the Marshall Islands have a staggeringly high prevalence of diabetes at 30.5%, meaning nearly one in three people have the condition. Other countries in this content with high prevalence include Kiribati, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, the Solomon Islands and Guam, all dominating the top ten list with a prevalence of over 15%. Worryingly, based on their increased rate of diabetes since 2010, prevalence is set to skyrocket by 2050 unless action is taken.

Diabetes is on the rise in many countries, in some more than others. Looking at the increase of diabetes cases from 2010 until 2019, the countries that have seen the biggest increase include:

The countries with the highest percentage increase of diabetes between 2010-2019 

Country

2010 - 2019 % increase in prevalence

Papua New Guinea

496.67%

Solomon Islands

475.76%

Sudan

426.19%

Vanuatu

271.88%

Iceland

262.50%

Comoros

261.76%

Kiribati

240.91%

Marshall Islands

235.16%

Rwanda

218.75%

New Caledonia

202.78%

Papa New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, both based in Oceania have seen a shocking percentage increase in citizens with diabetes. In Europe, Iceland has faced the greatest increase at a shocking 272%, going from just 1.6% of the population having it in 2010  to 5.8% in 2019. If this continues Iceland is set to face a staggering 20.3% of its citizens with diabetes by 2050.

Interestingly, 77 of the 200 countries analysed are predicted to maintain or see a decrease in their percentage of cases of diabetes, including Lithuania, Singapore, Estonia, Sierra Leone, France, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. The United Kingdom and the United States unfortunately still are facing an increase. 

 

How can diabetes affect our vision?

Diabetes is a lifetime condition that can have a variety of implications, with some being more serious than others. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes it is important to regularly see your optometrist and GP to ensure your eyes are in the best health possible, as diabetes can cause a number of issues including cataracts, blurry vision, retinopathy, glaucoma, and is in fact the primary cause of blindness in adults between the ages of 20 and 74. 

Lenstore has produced a number of different visuals to highlight how diabetes can impact your vision by showing how some of these iconic UK sites including London Bridge, Stonehenge, the Highlands and Brighton may look with this condition.

 

Wavy vision

High blood sugar levels can cause the lens of your eye to swell, which as a result can cause both your vision to become distorted and make you see these iconic locations like the following. The effects of this can be both short and long-term.


 

Blurred vision

Caused for similar reasons, diabetes can cause blurred vision both short and long-term. When short-term it is often a result of fluid moving in and out of the eye as a result of high blood sugar levels, which then can cause the lens to swell. As the lens is the part that focuses on the light, this is where the blurred sight emerges from.

Long-term effects of blurred vision often come from uncontrolled diabetes conditions and is a result of high blood sugar levels damaging small blood vessels over a period of time. As a result, the retina is affected causing you to experience blurred vision. 

The below images are what you may experience when suffering from blurred vision.

 

Floaters

Eye floaters sometimes go unnoticed, however, it’s important to watch out for them, appearing as white or translucent visual blockers that come and go, and move around within your vision. These floaters can often be a symptom of a more serious diabetic-related eye condition, such as diabetic retinopathy; which sees the blood vessels in your retina become damaged. Floaters can also be a sign of diabetic macular edema, which sees a build-up of fluid in the centre of the retina or macular, which is the area of the eye responsible for your sharp vision and most of your colour vision.

 

Colour-loss

Colour vision loss or alteration effects is known to impact the vision of people with diabetes. It is particularly known to affect blue-yellow colour vision and worsens with the severity of other related diabetes eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy. 

Colour blindness is a condition where patients are unable to see the correct colour of their surroundings. 

 

Vision loss

Whilst diabetes does not cause blindness, it increases your chance of developing serious eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy which over time can lead to a permanent loss of vision if left untreated. It’s important to note that if your blood sugar levels are managed, you can slow down and reduce the severity of its impact on your vision.

 

Roshni Patel, expert optometrist and eye specialist at Lenstore comments:

‘If you ever face a vision change, whether it's blurring, distortions, or the ability to perceive things at different distances, it's always important to speak to your optometrist as soon as possible. Blurring and distortions can be a sign of something serious, and the sooner you catch any risk the better the chances are that it'll be possible to treat it.’

 

If you have any concerns about your vision, Lenstore offers a free sight test with Vision Express to all our UK customers. Simply request your appointment to receive the sight test offer.