Diabetic Retinopathy is the number one cause of blindness in individuals of working age in the UK. Diabetes results in abnormally high levels of blood sugars that can damage blood vessels in the body including on the back of the eye.

When diabetes causes damage to blood vessels on the back of the eye in the retina, it is called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes can also cause diabetic macular oedema, swelling in the central vision part of the eye.

Abnormal blood vessels can grow on the surface of the retina or on the optic nerve. This process is called “neovascularization”.

Neovascularization occurs when normal blood vessels in the retina become very damaged from diabetes and close off, simulating the growth of new abnormal blood vessels.

These new abnormal blood vessels can break open and fill the eye with blood, called a vitreous haemorrhage. These abnormal blood vessels also can cause scar tissue to form that can tug on the retina and lead to a retinal detachment where the nerve tissue comes off the back of the eye.

Diabetic Macular Oedema can also occur in patients with diabetes. The macula is the part of the eye used for central vision that allows us to see fine details and colour. Diabetes can cause small abnormalities in blood vessels near the macula that lead to these blood vessels leaking fluid and blood.

This can cause swelling or thickening of the macula that can lead to decreased vision. Both Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Oedema can be treated to reduce the risk of vision loss. Imaging studies using fluorescein angiography and optical coherence tomography (OCT) (See our section on our OCT) can be useful in helping diagnosis and treat diabetic changes in the eye.

Retinal specialists use medicines, laser surgeries, or surgery to treat changes from diabetes in eyes. The earlier the detection of changes from diabetes, the more likely the chance of preserving vision.

An OCT extended eye examination will give the Optometrist the best chance of diagnosing this and all conditions. You can reduce your chances of losing vision from diabetes by getting your eyes checked at least once a year. Maintaining strict control of your blood sugar and blood pressure and not smoking will help reduce the chance of getting changes in your eye from diabetes.

If you think you are suffering with Diabetic Retinopathy or are in any way concerned about you eye health, please get in touch to book an appointment with one of our optometrists.