Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes where the tiny blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye become damaged and begin to leak blood and other fluids, which can lead to vision loss.

Most people, who have suffered from diabetes for over 20 years, will have some degree of retinopathy (nearly all patients with Type 1 diabetes and 58% of patients with Type 2 diabetes).

Early signs of diabetic retinopathy include small haemorrhages and microaneurysms appearing in the retina. In later stages, excessive microvascular leakage can cause swelling at the macular (the region of the retina responsible for all detailed central vision).

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include blur or loss of vision. For diabetics, strict control of blood sugar levels is essential in preventing the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

At Insight Optometrists we utilise Digital Retinal Imaging (DRI) and Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) to detect diabetic retinopathy. Digital retinal imaging photographs the surface of the retina looking for signs of haemorrhages, lipid exudates or micro-aneurysms. OCT is a non-invasive imaging test, which uses light waves to take cross-sectional images of the retina. OCT allows the optometrist to see each of the retina’s distinctive layers allowing them to detect leaking blood or fluid beneath the surface of the retina.

i Hietala K, Harjutsalo V, Forsblom C, Summanen P, Groop PH; FinnDiane Study Group. Age at onset and the risk of proliferative retinopathy in type 1 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2010;33(6):1315–1319. doi:10.2337/dc09-2278