Diabetic Eye Screening
Diabetic Eye Screening/Diabetic Retinopathy
Prevent sight loss in people with diabetes
People with diabetes are at risk of developing a sight threatening eye condition called diabetic retinopathy.
Sugar in the blood can cause damage to blood vessels throughout the body, including those blood vessels in the eye. The eye changes are called diabetic retinopathy. If you have diabetes, it is vital to have the back of your eyes effectively screened every year.
The science behind Understanding diabetic retinopathy
Diabetes is a condition where the body can’t use and store sugar properly and this can cause many health problems. Sugar in the blood can cause damage to blood vessels throughout the body, including the blood vessels in the eye. These eye changes are called diabetic retinopathy.
If you have diabetes, it is vital to have the back of your eyes effectively screened at least once a year.
What is diabetic retinopathy?
The lining at the back of your eye is called the retina. The job of the retina is to help change what you see into messages that travel along the sight nerve to the brain.
In the centre of the retina is an area called the macula which is really important for clear, sharp vision.
Diabetic retinopathy is the name used for different types of changes in the retina which can affect your sight, including:
• Diabetic Macular Edema – where leak’s in blood vessels affect the important central part of the retina called the macula the main part of the eye responsible for detailed central vision. Diabetic macular edema is the more common type of eye change
• Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy – this is where fragile new blood vessels form gradually on the surface of the retina over time.
What causes diabetic retinopathy?
In diabetics, over time the blood vessels in the retina become thicker and the blood flowing in the blood vessels slows down. The retina tries to help speed up the blood flow by producing tiny amounts of chemicals to open up the blood vessels.
These chemicals have two side effects:
• they can make the blood vessels leak
• they can cause the retina to make new blood vessels which are very fragile.
Diabetic macular edema and proliferative diabetic retinopathy can be treated and managed if they are detected early. If they are left untreated, sight problems will develop.
Could I develop diabetic retinopathy?
Anyone with diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop the condition. Poor blood sugar control in diabetics can make diabetic retinopathy worse and can increase the risk of developing blindneess.
Risk factors for diabetic retinopathy?
• Poor blood glucose control
• High blood pressure
• Raised fats (triglycerides) in the blood
• Pregnancy (not gestational diabetes). During pregnancy, diabetes can worsen diabetic retinopathy.
How will I know if I am developing diabetic retinopathy?
You may not notice anything as there may be no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. But talk with your diabetes care team if you:
- experience blurred vision or any changes in your sight,
- see new black spots,
- floaters’ that appear to float in your eye,
- have trouble seeing things at the side of your vision.
Blurred vision can happen at any stage of diabetic retinopathy, although it is more likely to occur the longer you have diabetes. Blurred vision happens for two reasons:
- with diabetic macular edema, leaking blood vessels cause swelling of the macula, which can lead to blurred vision.
- with proliferative diabetic retinopathy, fragile new blood vessels on the retina cause bleeding in the eye.
This can also lead to blurred vision. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear. It is important to attend your diabetes and eye screening appointments. Early detection and treatment can help to avoid sight loss from diabetic retinopathy.
How is diabetic retinopathy detected?
Regular eye screening is the best way to detect diabetic retinopathy before you notice any changes in your sight. The Diabetic Retinopathy Screening service uses specialised digital photography to look for changes that could affect your sight. This is painless and safe.
How can I avoid getting diabetic retinopathy?
You can help prevent or slow the development of diabetic retinopathy by:
- taking your prescribed medication;
- sticking to your recommended diet as best you can;
- exercising regularly and sensibly;
- controlling high blood pressure;
- limiting your alcohol intake;
- avoiding smoking;
- attending your regular diabetes check-ups; and
- having a full eye examination every year.
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:
- Seeing spots or floaters
- Blurred vision
- Having a dark or empty spot in the center of your vision
- Difficulty seeing well at night
How is diabetic retinopathy treated?
Diabetic retinopathy is treated, a good diet, regular exercise and looking after your blood sugar can slow down the development of the condition.
Diabetic macular edema can be treated with a laser or injections of medicine in the eye or a combination of both treatments. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is typically treated with laser but some people may need injections and surgery inside the eye. You and your diabetes care team will decide together which treatment is best for you.
What should I do if I have a problem with my sight?
Optical treatments are available to help you to maintain your vision.