If you live with diabetes, keeping your eyes healthy is vital. Why? Because diabetes is the leading cause of preventable blindness in Canada, though that's not where the story ends. Here's the scoop on what you should know and what you can do to prevent blindness and other eye diseases caused by diabetes.

The diabetes connection

Diabetes can cause changes in the tiny blood vessels in the retina: the sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that receives images and sends them to the brain. Diabetes-related eye diseases, known as diabetic retinopathy, cause vision problems ranging from blurriness to blindness. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of blindness in people under the age of 65.

Get checked

If you're an adult who has type 1 diabetes, get your eyes checked by an optometrist five years after your diabetes diagnosis, then annually. If you're an adult who has type 2 diabetes, get your eyes checked when you're first diagnosed with diabetes, then every year or two if there is no eye damage, or more often if retinopathy is present.

Take steps

Good blood glucose (sugar) control is your best prevention against the development and progression of retinopathy. Early detection and treatment are vital to preventing vision loss, so visit an experienced eye care professional regularly. In most provinces, annual eye exams are free for people with diabetes. Check with your eye care professional for more details.