Who is at risk of having diabetic retinopathy?
Anyone who has type 1 or type 2 diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy. The longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to develop this eye complication.
DIABETIC EYE DISEASES
Different eye problems are often one of the side effects of diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease.
A network of blood vessels supply the retina - a light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye - with blood. High blood sugar levels damage these tiny blood vessels, and this causes diabetic retinopathy. The condition does not appear instantly but progresses over time.
In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina.
If you have diabetic retinopathy, at first you may not notice any changes in your vision. However, when the condition progresses, your sight will be affected. Eventually it may cause blidness.
Having regular eye checks is very important for diabetics. When diabetic retinopathy is caught early, lifestyle changes can stop the condition getting worse. Controlling blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol are essential.
Sometimes diabetic retinopathy needs to be treated. There are different treatment methods, and your ophthalmologist will always decide the best care alternative for you. One very effective treatment method is laser photocoagulation treatment.
Eye with diabetic retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy symptoms
The earliest phase of diabetic retinopathy is known as ‘background diabetic retinopathy’. Often there are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, nor is there any pain. In this phase, the arteries in the retina become weakened and leak, forming small haemorrhages. These leaking vessels often lead to swelling or oedema in the retina. As the disease progresses, some blood vessels that nourish the retina become blocked, over time worsening and depriving several areas of the retina with their blood supply.
In advanced diabetic retinopathy the signals sent by the retina for nourishment trigger the growth of new blood vessels. This condition is called proliferative retinopathy. These new blood vessels are abnormal and fragile. They grow along the retina and along the surface of the clear gel that fills the inside of the eye. By themselves, these blood vessels do not cause symptoms or vision loss. However, they have thin, fragile walls. If they leak blood, severe vision loss and even blindness can result.
A condition known as diabetic macular oedema occurs when blood leaks into the centre of the retina, known as the macula, the part of the eye where sharp, straight-ahead vision occurs. The fluid makes the macula swell, blurring vision. This can occur at any stage of diabetic retinopathy, although it is more likely to occur as the disease progresses.
Diabetes and the eye
The different parts of the eye:
the macula, the central area of the retina that is responsible for our reading vision, color vision, and other tasks requiring sharp vision.
tiny bulges develop in the blood vessels, which may bleed slightly but don’t usually affect your vision – this is known as background retinopathy
more severe and widespread changes affect the blood vessels, including more significant bleeding into the eye – this is known as pre-proliferative retinopathy
scar tissue and new blood vessels, which are weak and bleed easily, develop on the retina – this is known as proliferative retinopathy and it can result in some loss of vision