Image showing growth of new vessels
Diabetes is a disease affecting many people and diabetic retinopathy is a common cause of blindness - 12% of people who are registered blind or partially sighted each year have diabetic eye disease. 10% of diabetics will have diabetic retinopathy requiring monitoring or treatment.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that affects the retina, the layer at the back of the eye which is sensitive to light.
The tiny blood vessels in the retina may become leaky, causing swelling of the retina, or blocked, causing the growth of new vessels that may bleed and fill the eye with blood (vitreous haemorrhage). This will increase the risk of retinal detachment. Loss of vision can result and both eyes may be affected differently.
It is important that diabetic patients attend for regular eye screening, before they develop any symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, as it is a treatable condition if diagnosed at this early stage. Sight tests are free for people with diabetes.
Image showing background retinopathy
It is important for diabetes to be well controlled and this can reduce the risk of diabetic retinopathy significantly, as well as reducing the risk of other diabetic complications as diabetes can also affect other organs. The presence or severity of diabetic retinopathy may be an indicator of increased risk of complications which may affect other parts of the body, such as the heart, kidney and diabetic foot disease.
Poor control of diabetes, resulting in fluctuations in blood sugar, can cause changes in the focusing of the natural crystalline lens in the eye. This may cause temporary blurring of vision.
Diabetes can also be a cause of cataracts forming in the eyes of young patients and can accelerate the development of these in older people.
Some patients may need to have a fluorescein angiogram carried out, to establish if the retinopathy is treatable with the laser.
Diabetes UK offers support to people with diabetes. Contact them at the following address.
Diabetes UK (formerly the
British Diabetic Association)
Telephone: 020 7424 1000
Careline: 020 7424 1030 (open 9am-5pm, Monday - Friday)
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