Diabetic retinopathy (diabetic eye)

Eyes | Ophthalmology | Diabetic retinopathy (diabetic eye) (Disease)


Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that damages the blood vessels of the retina and is a complication of diabetes.

There are three main types of diabetic retinopathy:

(1) Non-proliferative retinopathy is an early form of the disease, where the retinal blood vessels leak fluid or bleed.

(2) Macular oedema is a swelling of the macula, caused by the leakage of fluid from retinal blood vessels. It can damage central vision.

(3) Proliferative retinopathy is an advanced form of the disease and occurs when blood vessels in the retina disappear and are replaced by new fragile vessels that bleed easily, and that can result in a sudden loss of vision.

There are no early-stage symptoms of diabetic retinopathy and vision loss may not occur until the disease is advanced.

Late-stage diabetic retinopathy symptoms include: blurred vision; eye strain; headaches.

Causes and Risk factors

A person with diabetic retinopathy has damage to the retina caused by long-standing diabetes. The retina is to the eye what film is to a camera. It is a thin membrane in the back of the eye that contains the rod and cone cells for vision. After receiving light, the retina sends messages to the brain through the optic nerve.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of blindness in those between 25 and 75 years old. Despite these intimidating statistics, research indicates that at least 90% of these new cases could be reduced if there was proper and vigilant treatment and monitoring of the eyes. Over time, diabetic retinopathy causes progressive blurry vision that can lead to blindness. The longer a person has diabetes, the higher his or her chances of developing diabetic retinopathy.

Diagnosis and Treatment

An examination of the eye using an ophthalmoscope and slit lamp will be done. The ophthalmologist may also take pictures of the retina with a special camera. The eyes are generally dilated for these exams.

Early in the disease good control of the blood sugar and blood pressure is needed to prevent the progression of the damage. Laser surgery is used to treat more advanced forms. Bleeding into the eye requires surgery to remove the blood. ...