Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy is a complication from diabetes that affects the eyes.  It is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye.  If left untreated, it may lead to vision loss and blindness.



Diabetic eye screening is a key preventative part of diabetes care.  It is likely that the optometrist will put drops in your eyes in order to dilate your pupils.  This allows the optometrist to gain a clear view of the retina and retinal blood vessels.  Digital retinal photographs and a scan of the retina called optical coherence tomography or OCT are also likely to be performed.  These tests are very sophisticated and do not hurt.  As diabetes is a chronic condition the tests allow changes in ocular health to be monitored over time.

ETDRS Early Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy Study
Image credit: Early treatment of diabetic retinopathy study ETDRS
It is important to note that early detection of diabetic retinopathy and subsequent treatment can reduce the risk of sight loss by up to 95%

If this condition is not monitored and treated it can lead to permanent loss of sight. Treatment for diabetic retinopathy depends on the stage of the disease. If the disease is not treated, it will continue to advance and may result in the blood vessels leaking blood and fluid into the retina. Laser treatment may then be necessary in order to stop the leaking. 

Diabetic retinopathy seldom shows symptoms, particularly in the early stages, therefore, it is important that people with diabetes have regular comprehensive dilated eye examinations.