What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of the eye that can affect anyone who has diabetes, regardless of the type or treatment, causing damage to the blood vessels supplying the retina – the “seeing” part of the eye.
Diabetic retinopathy generally has no obvious symptoms until it is advanced, so early detection is essential.
Annual dilated eye exams are essential to protect your eyesight as early detection is the key to successful treatment. Good glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol control can also reduce your risk of developing sight threatening complications.
Approximately 3% of the population is affected by diabetes. Increases in the blood glucose concentration (hyperglycaemia) occur when there is a lack of naturally produced insulin in the body. There are two main types of diabetes, Type 1 (Insulin Dependent) which affects those with damage to certain cells in their pancreas and usually occurs for individuals in their teens. Insulin injections must be administered regularly. Type 2 (Non-Insulin Dependent) diabetics do not necessarily have to inject insulin and often has a later onset (50+ years). It can be controlled through good diet and with the occasional use of tablets.
Any diabetic should have their internal eye health checked annually using pupil dilation in conjunction with retinal camera photography. These images will be archived for future comparison. The diabetic retina characteristically shows a progression of circumstances including different types of “exudates”, “haemorrhages”, “cotton wool spots” and ultimately end-stage retinal detachment. Although, with good blood glucose regulation most diabetics can prevent significant eye damage.
While the partial treatment offered (photocoagulation) can be effective, the best means of prevention is accomplished solely through good diabetic respect and frequent eye assessment.