Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes. Patients with poor diabetic control, resulting in too high blood sugar levels over prolonged periods of time, may have damaged blood vessels in the light sensitive retinal layer.
This condition affects up to eight out of ten patients who have had diabetes for ten years or more.
During the initial stages, retinopathy does not cause any noticeable symptoms. A patient will not notice retinal damage until the later stages, when vision becomes affected and vision loss may be permanent.
There are two types of sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy:
Diabetic macular oedema
When fluid leaks out of the tiny damaged blood vessels in the back of the eye, it accumulates in the macula and this leads to swelling of macula tissue causing blurred vision.
Eventually, patients with diabetic macular oedema can develop poor central vision and be unable to read or drive.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy
With this condition blood vessels in the retinal layer close, resulting in the retina being starved of blood. This causes abnormal and very fragile blood vessels to grow on the surface of the retina. This in turn affects eyesight.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy can lead to permanent and gross loss of vision from bleeding into the eye, retinal scarring and retinal detachment.
Therefore, it is important for people with diabetes to keep their blood sugar levels under control. Retinopathy can cause blindness, it is very important that it is identified and treated as early as possible.
Everyone with diabetes should have a comprehensive dilated eye examination once a year to check for signs of damage.
You are entitled to a free NHS eye test if you have been diagnosed with diabetes.
Plus, there is a national NHS Diabetic Eye Screening Programme which aims to reduce the risk of vision loss in people with diabetes. To be referred on to the scheme please see your GP.
To book an extended dilated eye examination, please call us freephone on 0800 130 3007.