Diabetic retinopathy is damage to the small blood vessels in at the retina caused by diabetes. These changes usually happen gradually over time. The high blood sugar content in diabetics causes new weaker blood vessels to grow which leak fluid. This fluid causes blurred vision and can also cause scar tissue. The longer the person has diabetes and lack of good blood sugar control, the greater the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy can also lead to other conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts and retinal detachments.
Symptoms may not always be noticed in the early stages. Leakage of fluid at the macula (macula oedema), causes blurred or distorted vision. Other symptoms may include, flashes and floaters, dark/ blank areas of vision or red streaks.
It is important to have regular eye checks for diabetic retinopathy. A healthy diet, adequate blood sugar levels and controlling of other general health conditions such as blood pressure are required for good eye health.
If treatment is required, the earlier it is started the better. The possible treatments include:
Intra vitreal injections: an injection of Anti VEGF or steroid medication directly into the eye. This medication aims to stop new vessel growth at the macula. These injections last a few months in duration and multiple injections may be required. Injections are performed in the clinic with a local anaesthetic.
Laser: Laser can be used to seal off abnormal blood vessels and stop their growth in the peripheral retina.
Vitrectomy: In more advanced forms of retinopathy, blood may leak into the vitreous, a gel like substance that fills the eye. This may cause blurred vision, and if it does not clear on its own a vitrectomy may be required. In a vitrectomy the vitreous is removed and replaced with a clear fluid substance.
Other surgeries and treatment may be required to treat secondary problems caused by macular oedema.