Diabetic retinopathy is caused by high blood sugar levels which damage the retina. It can cause blindness if either left undiagnosed or untreated.
What is diabetic retinopathy?
For those suffering with diabetes – a disease in which the body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired, resulting in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of glucose in the blood – diabetic retinopathy can be a severe side effect. It is caused by high blood sugar levels that damage the retina. The retina needs a constant supply of blood, which it receives through a network of tiny blood vessels. A persistently high blood sugar level can damage the blood vessels in the three mains stages.
Background retinopathy – tiny bulges develop in the blood vessels, which may bleed slightly but don’t usually affect your vision.
Pre-proliferative retinopathy – more severe and widespread changes affect the blood vessels, including more significant bleeding into the eye.
Proliferative retinopathy – scar tissue and new blood vessels, which are weak and bleed easily, develop on the retina. It can result in some loss of vision.
What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?
In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy you may not notice any symptoms. Screening can detect the condition before you notice any changes. If detected early enough, management of the condition can stop it from getting worse.
If you start to experience the following, then speak to your GP or optician immediately:
- Gradually worsening vision
- Sudden vision loss
- Blurred or patchy vision
- Eye pain or redness
How can diabetic retinopathy be treated?
Treatment for diabetic retinopathy is only necessary if screening detects significant problems meaning your vision is at risk. These treatments are:
- Laser treatment
- Injections of medication in the eye
- An operation to remove blood or scar tissue from the eye