People with diabetes can experience a number of related health problems, including diabetic eye conditions. One of the simplest, but most important ways to keep your eyes healthy and manage these conditions is to attend an annual retinal screening.
However, we know that it can be difficult for some people to attend in-store or hospital appointments — especially if they have a physical or mental disability. People who are housebound might be unable to attend an annual retinal screening, which is where a home eye test can help. Here we’ll explain how home eye exams can support people with diabetes, and our procedure for managing and referring diabetic eye conditions at home.

Which eye problems can diabetes cause?

Diabetes is a condition in which the blood glucose level (blood sugar) is higher than normal. If blood glucose remains high for prolonged periods of time, this can damage the blood vessels throughout the body, including the eyes. As a result, people with diabetes are at higher risk of developing specific eye conditions, including:

Blurred vision: High blood glucose levels can cause fluid to build up in the eyes, making it difficult to focus clearly. People with diabetes may also experience blurred vision when they change their diabetes medications or treatment plan.

Diabetic retinopathy: The retina is the layer of the eye that detects light which helps us to see. High blood glucose can damage the tiny vessels at the back of the eye which can result in them leaking, leading to a condition called diabetic retinopathy. If unmanaged, over time this condition can lead to gradual vision loss. 

Diabetic macular oedema: The macula is the part of the eye responsible for sharp, straight-ahead vision, which we use for driving, reading, and recognising faces. Diabetes can lead to macular oedema (swelling), which over time can cause sharp vision to deteriorate.

Glaucoma: People with diabetes have double the chance of developing glaucoma compared to people with normal blood sugar levels.1 That’s why people with diabetes need to undergo regular screenings to check for signs of glaucoma. 

Cataracts: People with diabetes are at greater risk of developing cataracts, and are more likely to develop them at a younger age.1 Regular eye exams can help opticians to detect the early signs of cataracts and refer people on for the necessary treatment.

How can home eye tests support people with diabetes?

Often, there are no clear warning signs or symptoms of diabetic eye problems, so regular eye exams are important for detecting and treating these conditions early before they can progress.

For some diabetic patients with physical or mental disabilities, or those living in care homes, it can be difficult getting into a clinic or optician for an eye test. Home eye exams are a convenient way to detect and monitor diabetic eye conditions and refer patients on for treatment. During these visits, the optician can perform a thorough eye exam within a home or care home to check for any signs of diabetic eye problems.

How can opticians monitor and detect diabetic eye problems with home eye exams?

People with diabetes need to be regularly examined for a number of related eye conditions. Many of the screening tests typically performed in our stores can easily be carried-out at home, some with specialist equipment.
 
One test for glaucoma that can be easily carried out at home is an eye pressure test. Many patients prefer this method to in-store eye pressure tests as it is a relatively quick process, and some people can’t even feel it being administered. Take a look at our guide for more information about home eye pressure tests for glaucoma.

Opticians can also perform a dilated pupil test in order to screen for signs of diabetic retinopathy. This involves administering some dilating eye drops which widen the pupils and allow the optician to get a clearer view of the back of the eye. Using a handheld ophthalmoscope, they will shine a light into the eye, and check the structures inside for any signs of inflammation. If an optician spots signs of a diabetic eye condition, they can send this information on to a GP and refer their patient to a specialist if necessary.

Alongside checking for specific conditions, our visiting opticians will also perform a number of tests to check the patient’s quality of vision, and to determine whether they might need to wear glasses. For more information, read about our full home eye test procedure here.

Who is eligible for a Specsavers home eye visit?

Due to the consistent care and monitoring needed to manage diabetic eye conditions, many patients can benefit from a home eye test. The NHS funds home eye tests for people who are unable to visit an optician due to physical or mental disability. You may be eligible if you have been diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma. For more information on whether you qualify, visit our eligibility page.

To learn more about Specsavers’ domiciliary care services, visit our home visits page.

References

1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2017). Diabetic Eye Disease. [Online]. Available at:https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/diabetic-eye-disease [Accessed 14 July 2020].