In the UK, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in the working age population, however, with early detection and intervention vision can be preserved.
Diabetes is a systemic disease that affects many organs within the body – including the eyes. Diabetes affects the small blood vessels at the back of the eye, leading to sight threatening complications. These complications include diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular oedema and together they are known as diabetic eye disease.
In the early stages of diabetic eye disease there are no symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, vision can become blurred, dark spots can appear, colour vision may deteriorate and overall vision can be lost.
The three images shown here are the same scene as viewed by a person with (Top) normal vision and with (Center) advanced diabetic retinopathy. The floating spots are hemorrhages that require prompt treatment. DME (Bottom) causes blurred vision. (information and images from https://nei.nih.gov/health/diabetic/retinopathy)
Diabetic Screening Programme
Screening has become a key part of monitoring diabetic patients and the appointment only lasts 30 minutes. At the appointment you meet a health care professional who talks you through what to expect during the appointment and they answer any questions you may have. Drops are then instilled to dilate the pupil, these can take around 20 minutes to take effect. Finally, a photograph is taken of the back of the eye and sent off to be analysed. After a few weeks both you and your GP receive a copy of your results.
For most people, this is all they will need on an annual basis, however, when necessary you may be referred to an ophthalmologist for closer monitoring and/or treatment.
There are 2 main treatments for diabetic eye disease, these are: injection therapy; and macular laser therapy (laser to the back surface of the eye). These treatments can be used in combination or alone depending on what is needed.
Prevention is always better than a cure. The best way to prevent diabetic eye disease is by keeping your blood glucose levels stable. Attending regular screening appointments and regular optician appointments also help as early detection is the key to preventing sight loss.
At Cathedral Eye Clinic, we have consultants who specialise in diabetic eye disease and so we are able to screen and in many cases treat if required. To arrange an appointment. Feel free to contact us on 02890 322020 or send an email to [email protected]
by Haley Murphy