Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetes-related eye disease that affects the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye responsible for transmitting visual signals to the brain. It is a common complication of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness among adults.

Here's an overview of diabetic retinopathy:

  1. Cause: High blood sugar levels over time can damage the blood vessels in the retina. This damage may lead to abnormal blood vessel growth, leakage, and other changes that can impact vision.

  2. Types:

    • Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR): In the early stages, small blood vessels in the retina may leak fluid or blood. This can lead to the formation of deposits (exudates) and swelling in the retina. This stage might not cause noticeable vision changes.
    • Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR): In more advanced stages, new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina or into the vitreous gel, the fluid that fills the eye. These new vessels are fragile and can lead to bleeding in the eye, potentially causing severe vision problems.
  3. Symptoms: In the early stages, diabetic retinopathy might not cause noticeable symptoms. As the disease progresses, symptoms might include:

    • Blurred or distorted vision
    • Dark or empty areas in your vision
    • Difficulty seeing colors
    • Floaters (spots or dark strings) in your vision
    • Difficulty reading or seeing things clearly
  4. Risk Factors: Anyone with diabetes, whether type 1 or type 2, is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. The risk increases the longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar levels are. Other risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pregnancy, and tobacco use.

  5. Prevention and Management:

    • Maintaining good blood sugar control is crucial in preventing and slowing the progression of diabetic retinopathy.
    • Regular eye exams by an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) are essential, as early detection and treatment can prevent severe vision loss.
    • Managing other health factors like blood pressure and cholesterol is also important.
  6. Treatment:

    • Depending on the stage of diabetic retinopathy, treatment options can include laser therapy to stop blood vessel leakage and abnormal growth, injections of medications into the eye to reduce swelling and abnormal vessel growth, and in severe cases, surgery to remove blood or scar tissue.

It's important for individuals with diabetes to have regular eye examinations, even if they are not experiencing vision problems. Early detection and timely intervention can significantly reduce the risk of severe vision loss caused by diabetic retinopathy.

Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent up to 98% of vision loss.

Symptoms: (these may not occur in the early stages so have regular check ups)

  • vision may become blurry
  • objects may float across your eyes and straight lines can appear wavy
  • it can become hard to see 

If you think you have any of these see an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

And remember - have regular eye tests - a medicare rebate is available for most visits. 

More information? Visit www.visioninitiative.org.au

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