What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Patients with diabetes are more likely to develop eye problems such as cataracts and glaucoma, but the disease’s affect on the retina is the main threat to vision. Most patients develop diabetic changes in the retina after approximately 20 years of the disease. The effect of diabetes on the retina is called diabetic retinopathy.

In this condition the small blood vessels in the retina become weakened and leak, forming small hemorrhages. The leaking of the vessels often leads to swelling in the retina and decreased vision. If untreated circulation problems can occur in these vessels and the retina becomes deprived of oxygen. This leads to death of the cells in the retina and a permanent loss of vision.

The affect of diabetic retinopathy on vision varies widely, depending on the stage of the disease. Some common symptoms of diabetic retinopathy are listed below, however, diabetes may cause other eye symptoms.

  • Blurred vision (this is often linked to blood sugar levels)
  • Floaters and flashes
  • Sudden loss of vision

If you are diabetic the National Health and Medical Research Council recommends yearly eye examinations so that related eye problems can be detected and treated as early as possible. At our practice we perform detailed dilated fundus examinations on all diabetics. If any signs of diabetic changes are seen we refer to a retina specialist to manage the condition.