What is Diabetic Eye Disease?

Diabetic retinopathy, also known as diabetic eye disease, is a medical condition in which damage occurs to the retina due to diabetes mellitus.

Diabetic retinopathy affects up to 80 percent of those who have had diabetes for 20 years or more. The longer a person has diabetes, the higher their chances of developing diabetic retinopathy. It is a leading cause of blindness in developed countries and is the primary cause of severe visual loss in people aged 20 to 64 in the UK.

Detecting Diabetic Eye Disease

The early stages of diabetic retinopathy often show no symptoms and provide no early warning signs. Even macular oedema, which can cause rapid central vision loss, may not have any warning signs for some time. As a result, it is very important to have regular comprehensive examinations of the retina for early diagnosis and monitoring. The best way to check for diabetic retinopathy is using Optomap and OCT scanning technology.

Only 10% of diabetic patients will experience vision loss (usually related to macular oedema) making it hard to do things like read or drive. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) can easily highlight areas of retinal thickening due to fluid accumulation from macular oedema. This early detection offers the opportunity for easier and more successful treatment.

In the more severe cases abnormal new blood vessels (neovascularisation) form at the back of the eye. These new blood vessels are fragile and can burst and bleed (vitreous haemorrhage) resulting in loss of vision. This may require a specialised form of laser treatment to ‘seal’ the vessels shut on the retina.

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