Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes is very common and occurs when sugar levels are too high in the bloodstream. This can affect the fragile blood vessels that supply the retina. In diabetic retinopathy, high blood sugar causes retinal blood vessels to become blocked, meaning the retina does not get the oxygen it needs. The blood vessels also become leaky, meaning the retina becomes swollen with fluid.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes is very common and occurs when sugar levels are too high in the bloodstream. This can affect the fragile blood vessels that supply the retina. In diabetic retinopathy, high blood sugar causes retinal blood vessels to become blocked, meaning the retina does not get the oxygen it needs. The blood vessels also become leaky, meaning the retina becomes swollen with fluid.

What are the symptoms of AMD?

Initially, there may be no symptoms at all. If the macula at the centre of the retina becomes swollen, vision can become blurred. If the retina becomes starved of oxygen, patients can notice floaters or loss of vision due to bleeding inside the eye. In advanced cases, the pressure in the eye can go up as new blood vessels form on the iris of the eye.

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Diabetic retinopathy can happen in those with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, as well as pregnant women who develop diabetes in pregnancy. Risk factors for the condition are the duration someone has had diabetes, as well as poor diabetes and blood pressure control. It is common for retinopathy to be the presenting feature in a patient who was not known to have diabetes, particularly in those with type 2 diabetes.

Laser treatment can be very effective for patients with proliferative diabetic retinopathy, where the retina is very starved of oxygen and laser helps reduce the retina’s need for oxygen. This helps prevent bleeding within the eye as well as retinal detachment.

In patients with diabetic maculopathy, the retina becomes swollen due to leaky blood vessels. This is primarily treated with a course of injections into the eye, as well as laser in some cases. In all patients, good diabetes and blood pressure control is essential to protect the retina from further damage.