Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a disease affecting the blood vessels of the retina due to high blood sugars in diabetes. The high blood sugars can cause either leakage from the blood vessels causing diabetic macular edema or can cause reduced blood supply to the retina which can stimulate new blood vessels in the retina (Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy).

Diabetic retinopathy is the major cause of blindness in adults. Patients with longer duration of diabetes and/or those with uncontrolled blood sugars are at a greater risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Since there are minimal visual symptoms in the early stages of the disease, it is recommended that all patients with diabetes have a regular eye examination.  Early diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy is important to prevent vision loss from diabetes.

What are the symptoms in Diabetic Retinopathy?

In the early stages, patients may have no visual symptoms. Macular edema can cause blurred vision, loss of the central vision or distortion of vision. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy or vitreous haemorrhage may cause floaters or loss of vision.

What Investigations will be performed to diagnose Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic Retinopathy is diagnosed by clinical examination. Either all or some of these investigations will be performed at Northern Eye Specialists to help in the diagnosis and management of Diabetic Retinopathy.

  1. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), scan of the layers of the retina
  2. OCT Angiography, a non-invasive scan of the blood vessels in the retina
  3. Fundus Fluorescein Angiography (FFA), photographs of the retinal vessels performed after injecting a dye in your arm

What are the treatment options available for management of Diabetic Retinopathy?

It is very important to manage the underlying cause including diabetes, high blood sugars and high cholesterol. Your Ophthalmologist will liaise with your general practitioner or Endocrinologist. The treatment of the eye condition depends on the nature and severity of the disease.

Diabetic macular edema may be treated with intravitreal injections of anti VEGF  or steroids. Laser treatment will be required for the management of proliferative diabetic retinopathy or vitreous haemorrhage. Sometimes vitreoretinal surgery may be required to treat vitreous haemorrhage or tractional retinal detachment.