This article answers the most frequently asked questions regarding diabetic eye disease and diabetic retinopathyDamage to the retina caused by diabetes and includes questions such as "How does diabetesA disorder caused by insufficient or absent production of the hormone insulin by the pancreas, or because the tissues are resistant to the effects. affect the eyes?" and "What treatment is available?"
Diabetes can lead to damage in the eye called Diabetic Retinopathy. High bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. sugar levels cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina
The light sensitive membrane that lines the back, inner surface of the eye and enables sight.
, resulting in bleeding, and leakage of exudates. In advanced disease this leads to the formation of abnormal new blood vessels. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of blindness in the working population in the western world.
Other common diabetic eye problems include dry eyes and cataracts.
• Fluctuating or changing vision.
• A reduction or loss of sight.
• Bleeding in the eye.
• Increased pressure in the eye.
Annual screeningA way to identify people who may have a certain condition, among a group of people who may or may not seem to for diabetic eye disease is offered to all diabetic patients over the age of twelve in the UK. The screening is conducted through digital photography of your eyes and the images will be checked to see if you have any treatable diabetic eye diseases.
By maintaining good blood pressureThe pressure of blood within the arteries., blood sugar levels and cholesterolA substance present in many tissues and an important constituent of cell membranes although high concentrations of a certain type of cholesterol in the blood are unhealthy. levels patients are able to reduce their risk of developing diabetic eye disease. Even in those patients who have already developed diabetic retinopathy, the symptoms can be improved through controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
You will need treatment when diabetic macular oedemaThe accumulation of excess fluid in the tissues of the body. has led to a swelling and a decrease in vision or when you have Proliferative Diabetic RetinopathyThe most advanced stage of diabetic eye disease; faulty new blood vessels on the retina leading to the development of new retinalRelating to the retina, the innermost layer of the eye. blood vessels.
Laser treatment is the standard treatment for diabetic retinopathy. For maculopathy a focal laser/grid laser are applied to the centre of the retina to decrease thickening. In Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy peripheral laser treatment is used to reduce newly developed blood vessels in the retina.
Anti-VEGF intravitreal injections are used to treat maculopathy by stopping the leakage from current blood vessels and preventing the development of new blood vessels. In Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy these injections temporarily close the new blood vessels.
Vitrectomy is a surgical operation whereby the gel in the eye is removed. Vitrectomies can be used both in the treatment of Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy and macular oedema.
All treatments, except for vitrectomy, are carried out during an outpatient visit. Laser treatments will not require follow-up treatment whilst Anti-VEGF injections will be followed by administering antibiotic eye drops. Vitrectomy is a Day Surgery procedure with patients allowed to go home the same day and with follow-up to include eye drops.
Side effects of laser treatment include reduced vision and an increase in swelling of the macular oedema.
Side effects of the Anti-VEGF injections and vitrectomy include increased pressure, inflammationThe body’s response to injury., bleeding and pain in the eye; retinal detachmentSeparation of the inner and outer layers of the retina, the innermost layer of the eye, with associated visual loss.; and endophthalmitis very rarely.