Diabetic Retinopathy Explained

Diabetic retinopathy is the result of high blood glucose levels, which over time leads to damage to the small blood vessels in the retina of the eye, causing them to leak fluid. To compensate for the damaged blood vessels, new ones grow but these vessels rupture easily and bleed (haemorrhage), causing damage to the back of the eye.

There may be no symptoms in the early stages of Diabetic Retinopathy, which is why it is important to have regular eye examinations so that any changes can be detected early and treatments started before vision is affected.

Symptoms and changes of advancing Diabetic Retinopathy include:

  • Distorted or Blurred vision (that is not improved with prescription glasses)
  • Fluctuation in the ability to focus
  • Seeing flashes or spots
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Sensitivity to light and glare

A diabetic examination involves instilling drops in the eyes to dilate the pupil so that the optometrist can get a clear view of the back of the eye and take photos. The optometrist may also recommend an OCT which is a scan of the back of the eye which shows the different layers of the eye and can detect any abnormalities.

If you have diabetes your best way to look after your vision is to:

  • Maintain healthy blood glucose levels, as recommended by your G.P. or diabetes specialist.
  • Have your eyes checked when you are first diagnosed with diabetes, and then on a regular basis, as determined by your optometrist.
  • See your optometrist promptly if you notice any changes in your vision in between your routine eye checks.
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