Eye Conditions

Diabetic Retinopathy

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a serious, sight-threatening disease that affects the blood vessels inside the retina.

It is the most common form of blindness in Australians under the age of 50.

There are three main types:

  • Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
  • Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
  • Diabetic Macular Oedema

What are the symptoms?

The danger with diabetic retinopathy is that there are no early-stage signs.

Late-stage symptoms include:

  • Blurred or distorted vision that makes it difficult to read, watch television or recognise faces
  • Increased sensitivity to glare and difficulty seeing at night
  • Eye strain and headaches

To ensure early detection and prevention it is crucial to have regular eye examinations at least once a year if you are at risk.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a serious, sight-threatening disease that affects the blood vessels inside the retina.

It is the most common form of blindness in Australians under the age of 50.

There are three main types:

  • Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
  • Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
  • Diabetic Macular Oedema

What are the symptoms?

The danger with diabetic retinopathy is that there are no early-stage signs.

Late-stage symptoms include:

  • Blurred or distorted vision that makes it difficult to read, watch television or recognise faces
  • Increased sensitivity to glare and difficulty seeing at night
  • Eye strain and headaches

To ensure early detection and prevention it is crucial to have regular eye examinations at least once a year if you are at risk.

What causes Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is caused by high blood sugar levels in the retinal blood vessels and is commonly associated with Type I and Type II diabetes.

When the blood vessels are damaged they are unable to deliver oxygen and nutrients to retinal tissue, which is needed to maintain good vision.

The severity of this disease can also be intensified due to:

  • – Smoking
  • – High cholesterol levels
  • – High blood pressure

Anyone with diabetes, including pregnant women with underlying or gestational diabetes, is at high risk of developing diabetic retinopathy and the likelihood of developing the disease increases the longer a person has diabetes.

What are the main types of Diabetic Retinopathy?

  • Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy – early form of the disease, where the retinal blood vessels leak fluid or bleed.
  • Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy – advanced form of the disease and occurs when blood vessels in the retina disappear and are replaced by new fragile vessels that bleed easily, and that can result in a sudden loss of vision.
  • Diabetic Macular Oedema – swelling of the macula, caused by the leakage of fluid from retinal blood vessels. It can damage central vision.

Unfortunately there is no cure for diabetic retinopathy, however regular eye examinations and treatment can help to maintain your vision.

Diabetic Retinopathy: Overview

Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy

Stabilising the disease to minimise further vision loss is the objective of any treatment.

 

Treatment combinations will depend on how advanced the disease is and if the blood vessels are leaking, and they include:

 

  • – Managing your diabetes – including regular eye examinations, control of blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol.

 

  • – Laser treatment – procedures called Pan-Retinal Photocoagulation (PRP) target and shrink leaking blood vessels and can be used to reduce growth of new fragile vessels, helping prevent vision loss.

 

  • – Intravitreal injections – anti-VEGF drugs or steroids are injected directly into the jelly-like material inside your eye known as the vitreous.

 

  • – Vitrectomy surgery – may be required for severe cases of diabetic retinopathy that will not respond to laser treatment.
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