DIABETES AND YOUR EYES
LIVING WITH DIABETES
Diabetes is a condition which affects the body’s ability to use and store sugar (glucose).
Diabetes can damage your eyes, and if left unchecked and untreated can eventually lead to blindness.
What is retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy simply means disease of the retina. It occurs when diabetes damages the very fine blood vessels in the retina.
Who is at risk?
People most at risk are those:
- Who have had diabetes for many years
- Whose diabetes is poorly controlled (high blood sugars)
- With diabetic kidney damage
- With high blood pressure, and /or high blood cholesterol
- Who are pregnant. This can make diabetic retinopathy progress faster than usual.
But everybody who has ever been diagnosed with diabetes is at risk.
Looking after your eyes
Retinopathy can be successfully treated with eye laser or injection. Fortunately you can do something to prevent loss of sight from diabetes as well by:
- Achieving good control of your diabetes, cholesterol level, and blood pressure.
- Having your eyes checked regularly for early detection of retinopathy.
Have your eyes checked regularly
It is important to have your eyes examined regularly by an ophthalmologist who is trained to detect retinopathy.
Don’t wait until you notice problems
Retinopathy can be quite advanced before you notice anything wrong with your sight. The earlier treatment starts, the better the chance of preserving your sight.
Are there any exceptions?
No. Every person with diabetes should have their eyes checked as soon as diabetes is diagnosed and at least every two years after that.
In addition to regular eye checks, you should see your doctor without delay if your vision worsens.
1. Laser Therapy
Advanced diabetic retinopathy is treated with laser. A laser is simply a very narrow concentrated beam of light.
What is involved?
Laser treatment may be carried out over several sessions and can be done in your doctor’s surgery. It usually takes about 15 minutes for each session.
During your treatment, you will sit at a machine similar to the one the eye doctor normally uses to examine your eyes. Your head will need to be still for the treatment.
You may or may not need time off work to complete the laser treatment. Driving your car may also be more difficult immediately after the laser session. Your sight may be worse for a few days or weeks after the laser, but it usually recovers fairly well. It is important to discuss this with your ophthalmologist prior to treatment.
2. Intravitreal (into the eye) Injection
The macula is responsible for central fine detailed vision. Diabetes can cause swelling of the macula and results in loss of vision. Treatment with anti-VEGF or steroid injections can reduce the visual loss.
What is anti-VEGF treatment?
Anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) treatments are a group of medicines that reduce new blood vessel growth or oedema (swelling). They are given by an injection into the eye to reduce the risk of scarring and damage to the retina caused by the swelling, which in turn can help to avoid further sight loss and for some people can improve the vision. Again, driving your car may also be more difficult immediately after the injection, particularly with the steroid (which may take a few days).