Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes is a chronic condition affecting more and more of the population in the western world. The condition itself can be characterised into two main types, the juvenile onset insulin-dependent type and the later (or maturity) onset non-insulin dependent type.

It is the later onset form of the condition which is increasing in prevalence, associated with increasing levels of obesity and reduced exercise.

Diabetes can, over time, cause damage to many of the major organ systems in the body. One of the commonest complications of diabetes is Diabetic Retinopathy. As with other organs in the body, the eye is dependent upon constant blood flow. In diabetes, there is damage to the small-calibre blood vessels (capillaries, arteriole and venules) and this damage can cause the blood vessels to leak or to get blocked. If this occurs, then damage to the retina (the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye) can occur. This is known as Diabetic Retinopathy.

Diabetic Retinopathy is more likely to develop/progress in those individuals who have high blood glucose (sugar) levels or in whom the blood glucose level fluctuates widely. Poorly controlled hypertension (high blood pressure) and smoking are also both significant risk factors in the progression of Diabetic Retinopathy.

If you are diabetic, it is therefore even more important to stop smoking and to control your blood pressure. A stable and well-controlled blood glucose level is a pre-requisite to trying to avoid complications.

NHS guidance currently states that all diabetics over the age of 12 should have their eyes examined at least once a year for signs of Diabetic Retinopathy.

If there are significant signs of the condition, then you may need to see a Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon who can examine your eyes in great detail, arrange specific careful investigations and advise on any treatment which may be necessary.


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