With June 8 marking the start of National Diabetes Week, Specsavers Antrim is urging people to undergo a routine eye examination, which can detect the life limiting condition.
Some 79,072 people in Northern Ireland, aged 17 and over are currently living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. A further 1,092 children and young people under 17 are now known to have type 1 diabetes.
There are also an estimated 10,000 people who have diabetes but have not yet been diagnosed.
The disease can be detected in its early stages through a simple eye test. Early diagnosis can also help put you in control, meaning you’re less likely to develop serious eye problems in the future.
Davin Quinn, store director of Specsavers Antrim, said: “People with diabetes are ten to 20 times more likely to go blind than someone without the condition because they are at risk from developing a condition known as diabetic retinopathy.
“However, if retinopathy is detected early through an eye examination and treated, blindness can be prevented in 90 per cent of cases. This is one of the reasons why we recommend an eye examination every two years.
“Being diagnosed with diabetes does not necessarily mean you will be affected by eye problems, or lose your sight, but it can increase your risk of developing such problems. Undetected diabetes can lead to eye issues including cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.”
Specsavers carries out over 200,000 eye examinations in Northern Ireland a year. All optometrists are trained to spot signs of diabetes during a regular eye examination.
Eye tests are free under the NHS to the over 60s, under 16s, those under 19 in full-time education, people already diagnosed with diabetes and those aged 40 or over who are either the brother, sister or child of a diagnosed glaucoma patient.
Additionally, Specsavers, Castle Mall Shopping Centre, Antrim, offers a free digital retinal screening service to all customers aged over 40 or when their optician recommends it.