Many New Zealanders with diabetes are unaware of a sight-threatening condition associated with the disease, despite many experiencing symptoms.
That's according to new research from Specsavers and Diabetes New Zealand that found 83 per cent of respondents experienced one or more vision-related symptoms that could be a sign of diabetic retinopathy.
The condition can lead to irreversible vision loss if left untreated.
Thirty-eight per cent of those questioned didn't know, or were unsure, what diabetic retinopathy was.
Specsavers Whanganui optometrist Ian Russell said raising awareness of the impact a
diagnosis of diabetes could have on an individual's eyesight was critical.
"Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye.
"While symptoms or changes to vision may be harmless, they can also indicate an underlying issue and are not to be taken lightly."
People living with the disease, or with pre-diabetes, should talk to their GP early about how best to manage the condition and associated risks, such as vision issues, Russell said.
"It is recommended that everyone gets their eyes tested every two years, whether you have diabetes or not.
"At Specsavers, an advanced OCT 3D eye scan is included as part of every eye test, which
allows the detection of eye conditions earlier."
Diabetes NZ and GPs typically refer people to their local Diabetes Services Retinal Screening Programme as soon as they are diagnosed.
More than half of those surveyed said they had at some point experienced spots or dark strings floating in their vision (often known as floaters) and had noticed blurred vision.
Twenty-six per cent had fluctuating vision, and 10 per cent had vision loss - all possible signs of diabetic retinopathy.
"Worryingly, for many people the condition does not cause any noticeable symptoms so early detection is key to managing diabetic retinopathy," Russell said.
More than 1.1 million New Zealanders live with diabetes or pre-diabetes 1.
Diabetes NZ chief executive Heather Verry said diabetes had been the leading cause of people developing blindness in New Zealand for many years.
"The link between diabetes and eye damage is well known.
"These new findings from Specsavers reiterate why we must continue to encourage people with, or at risk of, diabetes to take care of their eyesight.
"The high numbers unaware of the connection is concerning."
AA members can claim a free eye test every two years and SuperGold Card holders can obtain half-price eye tests at Specsavers stores nationwide.