Diabetic Eye Disease

What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition that affects the use of sugar (glucose) by the cells of the body. This causes high levels of sugar to circulate in the blood stream, which eventually causes damage to the small blood vessels in the body. The parts of the body most commonly affected by this process are the eye (retina), kidneys, heart, feet and brain.
When diabetes affects the eyes it is called Diabetic Retinopathy.

Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness in people of working age (30 – 60 age group). If you are diabetic it is essential that you have your eyes checked by an Ophthalmologist every year, and possibly more frequently, if your diabetes is affecting your eyes. It is also very important that your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cholesterol and body weight are well controlled as these factors can all affect the health of your eyes.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has strict guidelines regarding the treatment of diabetic retinopathy in order to try and prevent the complications of diabetes within the eye.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetes causes damage to the retinal blood vessels at the back of the eye. These blood vessels then become weakened and fluid, protein and blood can leak out of them and accumulate within the layers of the retina. If this involves the macula area (central part of the retina where best vision takes place) this is called Macular Edema and the central part of the vision may become blurred.

When the blood vessels at the back of the eye become damaged, the blood supply to the eye can also be affected leading to the formation of abnormal blood vessels within the eye. This is called Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy. These abnormal blood vessels are fragile and can easily bleed into the eye causing a sudden reduction in vision (Vitreous Haemorrhage)

Both Diabetic Macular Edema and Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy require prompt treatment to try and prevent permanent loss of vision. Treatment usually consists of laser. Occasionally, special injections into the eye (intravitreal injections) may be required to treat the macular edema or the proliferation of abnormal blood vessels. If there is bleeding inside the eye, laser therapy may be difficult or sometimes impossible to carry out. In this case, vitrectomy surgery may be the only way to restore vision.

LASER treatment for diabetic retinopathy

Laser is applied to the retina in 2 different ways:

  • If you have Macular Edema, Laser is applied to the areas of retina that are “leaking” (Focal or Grid Argon Laser). This process is relatively quick and completely painless. Your vision wi