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  • Writer's pictureRichard Kadri-Langford

Could Type 2 Diabetes affect your child’s eyesight?

Updated: Jul 22, 2022

Some 400,000 people in the UK are currently living with type 1 diabetes, of which approximately 29,000 are children. [1] Type 1 diabetes tends to occur as a result of a genetic condition, resulting in the body attacking cells in the pancreas and leaving it unable to make insulin. As a genetic condition, it tends to show up in childhood or early adulthood, hence the high numbers of children with the condition.

On the other hand, type 2 diabetes tends to occur as a result of lifestyle or other factors leading to the body either not being able to make enough insulin or being unable to use the insulin produced.

Ninety per cent of diabetics have type 2 diabetes, with the condition traditionally starting to manifest itself in middle to later life. What is perhaps concerning is that the number of children being identified with type 2 diabetes is increasing.

An NHS digital report released in 2021 [2] revealed that of the 122,780 children and young adults aged under forty with type 2 diabetes, 1,560 were under nineteen.

Untreated, diabetes can lead to a range of life-limiting conditions including kidney and heart disease, nerve damage and blindness. Not only can high levels of blood pressure cause damage to the eyes, high blood sugar levels can also damage vessels in the retina, leading to blurry vision and eventually permanent eye damage. This condition is known as diabetic retinopathy. Over the longer-term, other conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma can also cause a loss of vision.

The particular danger with type 2 diabetes is that it can develop slowly over a period of time, advancing and retreating as factors such as eating habits and exercise levels change. As a result, some damage can already have been caused before parents are even aware that their child has a problem.

For example, in adults, it can be rare to see diabetic retinopathy developing within the first five years of having been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. [3] On the other hand, those with type 2 diabetes may already have developed some signs of eye problems by the time they are diagnosed. This sends out a strong signal to parents not only to look after their child’s general health but to ensure that regular eyesight tests are carried out. The sooner that any problems are identified, the sooner that an appropriate management plan can be put in place; not only helping to save the long term vision of your child but also helping to prevent other life-limiting conditions from developing.

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