- Diabetic eye disease is the term used to define a group of eye conditions that can affect people with diabetes. Diabetes can affect various parts of the eye from the lids to the retina.
- Persons with uncontrolled blood sugar can have frequent boils in the lids. They can also have repeated allergic reaction in the eye.
- Uncontrolled diabetes can cause cataract (clouding of the eye’s natural lens) to occur at an earlier age than normal. All of these can be easily cured by controlling blood sugar and taking necessary treatment for the eye.
- Diabetics have an added risk of developing glaucoma where increased pressure inside the eye causes damage to the optic nerve. Early detection and treatment hold the key to prevent blindness in glaucoma.
- A very serious affection of the retina can occur due to diabetes and this is called diabetic retinopathy.
What is Diabetic retinopathy?
- Diabetic retinopathy occurs when chronically high blood sugar levels cause damage to the blood vessels of the retina. This leads to the development of bleeding points in the retina along with retinal swelling.
- In advanced cases, newand abnormal blood vessels will start growing on the retina.
- If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can affect vision and can lead to blindness.
Risk factors for diabetic retinopathy
- Diabetic retinopathy usually affects people who have had diabetes for a significant number of years.
- The risk of developing diabetic retinopathy increases with age as well with poorly controlled blood sugar.
- High blood pressure, poor kidney function and high cholesterol levels are also postulated risk factors.
- Anyone suffering from diabetes faces the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. For this reason, all patients with diabetes (controlled or uncontrolled) should get adilated eye examination done with an eye doctor at least once every year to check for diabetic retinopathy.
What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?
- The early stages of diabetic retinopathy are asymptomatic. During the advanced stages, vision is affected due to swelling of the retina or bleeding from the new and abnormal vessels on the retina or retinal detachment.
- The symptoms to watchout for are:
- Sudden changes in vision / blurred vision.
- Distorted vision.
- Floaters and dark spots.
- Double vision.
Can diabetic retinopathy be treated?
Each stage of diabetic retinopathy is treated in a different way. Diabetics in the early stages of retinopathy (Background retinopathy) require no eye treatment but should undergo regular eye examinationat least once a year. These patients should maintain good control of all blood parameters. Many a times the vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy is irreversible and hence early detection of diabetic retinopathy becomes more important.
The swelling of the retina (Diabetic maculopathy) can be treated with drops, injections into the eye (intavitreal anti VEGF injections) or laser treatment of the retina.
Treatment options for advaced stages of retinopathy(Proliferative Diabetic retinopathy) are laser treatment of the retina (panretinal photocoagulation) and surgery (vitrectomy).
Diabetics...... don’t let diabetic retinopathy steal your vision. Keep your sugars under control and get a routine eye examination done every year.....Early detection of diabetic retinopathy can prevent blindness.....But do remember, Prevention is always better than cure....