One of the health complications that we aim to prevent/minimize in people with diabetes is damage to the blood vessels in the back of the eye, called diabetic retinopathy.

If you want to know more about your risk, check out this awesome calculator, developed by the American Diabetes Association.

All you need to know is:

  • what type of diabetes you have (type 1 or 2)
  • the year you were diagnosed with diabetes
  • whether you have been diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy in the past (by an optometrist or opthalmologist)
  • your most recent A1C (diabetes ‘report card’ blood test) and the units of measure (in Canada it’s %; in other places, it’s Mmol/mol)
  • your blood pressure


The calculator provides the risk of developing sight-threatening retinopathy in the next 1 year.


One might be surprised to find, for example, that a man with type 2 diabetes since 2010, who has a mildly elevated blood pressure and an A1C of 9.5%, who had been advised in the past that there are some diabetic-related eye changes, but maybe hasn’t had an eye exam for a while, has a 9.1% risk of sight threatening eye problems in the next 1 year.


It is important for people with diabetes to have an eye exam every year, or more often if eye concerns are found.  Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic has interrupted this annual screening for many people.  Remember that an optometrist or an opthalmologist (physician) can do this eye exam, and it’s free in many provinces in Canada.  In some places, there are even telemedicine programs that can do this screening for you.


Remember, you may not be aware of changes happening in your eyes. Changes can be detected early by regular eye exams, before you notice any difference in your vision, and can be treated before your vision is affected.


Good blood sugar and blood pressure control are important to prevent or slow progression of diabetic retinopathy.  To find out more,  check out this excellent patient information from Diabetes Canada.


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