Diabetic eye disease
Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye conditions related to diabetes. It most often occurs when blood sugar levels are high and left untreated. This damages the blood vessels in the eye and causes them to bleed and swell. The risk of developing diabetic eye disease increases when patients have had diabetes for a long time and don’t control their blood sugar levels. High blood pressure, kidney disease and high cholesterol can also increase the risk of diabetic eye disease. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common and most serious form of diabetic eye disease.
The early stages of diabetic eye disease usually have no symptoms. But as the disease progresses you may experience the following:
- sudden vision loss
- gradually worsening vision
- “floaters” (shapes floating in your field of vision)
- blurred vision
- eye pain or redness
Even if you don’t have symptoms, we can detect diabetic eye disease in its earliest stages with a diabetic eye screening. To diagnose diabetic eye disease we start by testing your vision. We then scan the macula (the part of the retina at the back of the eye that is responsible for your central vision) and take photos of the back of the eye. These tests determine any changes within the eye. We can investigate these changes further using angiography. Angiography records pictures of the eye as dye travels through it. This does not hurt and takes around 10 minutes. The angiography produces digital images that we will show you during your consultation. These images will help you understand how diabetic eye disease is affecting your eyes.
Diabetic eye disease treatment
Early diagnosis and treatment of diabetic eye disease is essential to preserving vision. If left untreated diabetic eye disease can lead to permanent blindness. But with proper treatment patients with diabetic eye disease can generally keep their vision.
The main treatments for diabetic eye disease are eye injections and laser treatment. We sometimes use both injections and laser treatment. Your treatment plan will depend on the stage and severity of your disease. Injections and laser treatments are generally not painful, and patients generally feel quite normal the day after receiving treatment.
Injections of a medicine called anti-VEGF are performed into your eyes. This medicine helps to reduce swelling and prevent the blood vessels from leaking. These injections are usually given once a month for the first six months. As your vision stabilises you’ll receive them less frequently.
We can also use a laser to treat the abnormal blood vessels at the back of your eye. This stops their growth and reduces bleeding. The procedure is done in our clinic over approximately four sessions of 15 minutes each. The side effects of laser treatment can include reduced peripheral vision, flashing of lights in the eye, and reduced contrast and night vision. Side effects are more common in patients who had intensive laser treatment over a long period of time.