Diabetes is a condition where there is too much sugar in the blood stream and not enough insulin to regulate it. Either the pancreas is not functioning correctly to produce the insulin or the tissue in the body does not respond to insulin in the way it should. Diabetes can affect young people or old people and can develop over the course of a lifetime. Anyone that has diabetes becomes more at risk to a variety of eye problems. One such important eye problem that can occur is diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetes can affect the blood vessels found in the eye. This can result in poor circulation of blood in the eye or even weakness of the blood vessel walls. If diabetic retinopathy has started to occur then there may be small haemorrhages visible in the eye. At this stage the eye sight is unlikely to be affected or impaired in any way. Sometimes the blood vessels continue to leak. This can cause the central macular area of the retina to swell up and this will begin to affect vision. The medical term for this stage of the disease is macular oedema and referred to as diabetic maculopathy. Treatment is vital at this stage to prevent permanent damage to the central macular area of the eye. This part of the disease is particularly common when a person has developed Type II diabetes – the more common diabetes that people develop as they get older.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is also very damaging to the eye. This is when there is a haemorrhage into the vitreous gel that fills the eye. This is due to a lack of oxygen reaching the retina, or more specifically the tissues in the retina. This is called ischaemia. The retina is forced to respond by growing blood vessels that are abnormal and are in danger of sudden bleeding. This is more common in Type I diabetes. If you have diabetes then you should make sure you have regular eye check ups. If your eye doctor can catch problems early then there is more chance that treatment can be given and any impairment to eye sight can be slowed or prevented.
An even more serious type of diabetic retinopathy is when bleeding causes scarring between the retina and the vitreous gel in the eye. The scar tissue can contract and as it does so it can detach the retina from the eye wall. When this happens there is little that can be done to prevent total blindness. You should undergo regular screening so that any of these problems can be detected early.
Once diagnosed with diabetes, sufferers should make sure they have regular scans. If diabetic maculpathy is detected – where the retina has swollen up due to leaking blood vessels then small laser burns can be made to help dry the retina. There may also be cause for small injections of steroids into the eyes. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy which is caused by lack of oxygen in the tissues of the retina can be treated by hundreds of small laser burns to the outside edge of the retina. When there is bleeding into the eye then a surgical procedure known as a vitrectomy may be necessary. During the treatment the vitreous gel is removed and the points that were bleeding are prevented from doing so further with a laser.
It’s possible that even those with very severe diabetic retinopathy conditions can have their sight saved with laser eye surgery. Lasik surgery can help fight against a whole variety of conditions. It can provide good macular degeneration treatment and glaucoma treatment too. When it comes to eyesight there are many problems and diseases that can affect it. Regular eye tests and screening should be had, especially for those who suffer from diabetes.
Kathryn Dawson writes articles about Optegra, one of the leading eye hospital operators in the UK providing treatment diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration treatment. All procedures including lasik surgery are carried out in ultra-clean, theatre environments.