WHAT IS DIABETIC RETINOPATHY?

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication that arises in people that have diabetes. These effects are mostly due to the damage of existing blood vessels within the retina, or due to the growth of new abnormally leaky vessels. Diabetic retinopathy can cause significant loss of vision and possibly blindness due to damage of the retina. The longer that someone has diabetes and the poorer the blood glucose control, then the higher the risk of of developing diabetic retinopathy.

HOW IS DIABETIC RETINOPATHY DETECTED?

digital retinal photography for diabetic retinopathy screeningDiabetic retinopathy can be detected routinely during an examination with an eye care professional. A diabetic screening examination at this practice typically includes measuring vision, directly viewing the retina and blood vessels within the eye using a slitlamp and lens, and measuring the pressure within the eye. Screening for cataract and glaucoma is also done at the same visit as both of these conditions are more likely if you are diabetic.

All diabetic eye examinations are typically performed with the pupil dilated to allow better visualisation of the back of the eye, and driving straight afterwards should be avoided. At this practice, we routinely digitally photograph the retina for future monitoring. At the completion of the eye examination we will send an extensive written report to your GP and endocrinologist, including printed images of your retina on high gloss photo paper.

WHAT IS THE TREATMENT OF DIABETIC RETINOPATHY?

Diabetic retinopathy in the early stages usually does not need treatment, other than continued monitoring of the retina. However, if diabetic retinopathy progresses to more sight threatening stages, or does in fact cause reduction of vision, then treatment including laser therapy, therapeutic injections within the eye, or surgery may be required.

WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR DIABETIC RETINOPATHY?

  • Duration: The length of time having diabetes is the main risk factor

  • Nationality: Aboriginal, Torres Straight Islanders, Middle Eastern groups are up to 4 times more likely to develop diabetes

  • Medical history: Women who have previously had diabetes during pregnancy

  • High blood glucose: Long standing high blood glucose can lead to serious vision loss and blindness

  • High blood pressure: Having increased blood pressure and diabetes can make diabetic retinopathy more likely

  • High cholesterol: High blood lipids increases the risk of diabetic retinopathy

  • Excess weight: People that are overweight have increased risk of diabetes progressing

  • Smoking: Those that smoke have an increased risk of developing diabetes

Brisbane Optometrist Samarkovski-Dean digital photography for diabetic retinopathy HOW CAN I REDUCE MY RISK OF DIABETIC RETINOPATHY?

  • Reduce blood glucose levels

  • Exercise daily

  • Reduce weight if overweight 

  • Cease smoking

  • Reduce cholesterol to normal levels

  • Reduce systolic blood pressure to 130 mmHg or less 

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I BE CHECKED FOR DIABETIC RETINOPATHY?

Early stages of diabetic retinopathy usually have no symptoms and can be missed if regular eye examinations are not performed. All people with diabetes, should have an eye examination with an eye care professional every year. Those with additional risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, poor blood glucose control, or early signs of diabetic eye disease may need to be checked more frequently. For those with borderline diabetes, an eye examination should be done at least every two years with an eye care professional.

If any of the following symptoms are noticed, then it is importannt to have your eyes examined immediately

  • darks spots in your vision

  • blurred, wavy, or double vision

  • difficulty seeing at night

  • frequent changes in your vision and glasses prescription

  • bright halos around lights

  • bright flashes of light or dark shadows moving in your vision