Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetes can affect your eyes in various ways. One of the most serious eye conditions is diabetic retinopathy (often called diabetic eye disease). This involves the network of blood vessels which supply the retina. The retina is delicate tissue which is sensitive to light. It converts the light into signals which are then carried to the brain by the optic nerve.

The delicate blood vessels which supply the retina can be damaged by diabetes. When these blood vessels become blocked, leaky or grow haphazardly the retina becomes damaged and is unable to work properly. If this happens then the retina and possibly vision can be affected.

Good diabetes control is the key and it can significantly lower the risk of retinopathy. Persistent high levels of glucose can lead to damage in the eyes. To reduce the risk of eye problems, blood glucose, blood pressure and blood fats need to be kept within a target range. Regular eye screening and early detection can help to prevent sight loss as most of the complications that diabetes cause can be treated, but early detection is vital.

As retinopathy frequently has no symptoms until it is well advanced, you may not be aware of changes to the retina until your vision has been impaired. Early signs of retinopathy can be detected by a detailed examination of the eye and regular screening can be arranged by either your GP or diabetes clinic. Part of this examination involves taking a photograph of the back of the eye. Annual retinal screening will detect retinopathy early and therefore increase the chances of minimal and more effective treatment.

Annual screening for retinopathy does not replace the checks which are carried out by opticians, they compliment each other and it is imperative that both screenings are carried out annually.