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Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic eye disease is an umbrella term used to refer to a category of eye diseases that are caused by diabetes. All can lead to partial loss of sight or even total blindness. Popular examples include diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts. In this article, we focus on diabetic retinopathy which is the most commonly reported of the three.

Diabetic Retinopathy is caused by damage to the blood capillaries of the retina (light sensitive part in the back part of the eye ball). The disease is normally silent and hard to detect in the early stages. In the long-run it can lead to loss of vision. Note that the disease can develop in anyone who has diabetes type 1 or 2. It is imperative to take precautionary measures to maintain a healthy retina for good vision.

How Diabetic Retinopathy Contributes to Vision Loss

There are two different ways through which diabetic retinopathy may cause loss of vision. These are:

*Macula Oedema
In layman terms, Macula Oedema simply refers to a condition where fluid leaks into a region of the retina known as the macula. Consistent collection of fluids around the macula region causes it to swell. The swelling may distort the person’s ability to retain sharp, straight-ahead vision.

*Proliferative diseaseThis mainly develops as a result of growth of abnormal blood vessels on the retina or optic nerve. Sometimes, these vessels may bleed worsening the problem.

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

Many a time, no strange symptoms are experienced during early stages of the problem. In the secondary stages, one may notice symptoms such as blurred vision, dark streaks or loss of sight.

 

Who are at the greatest risks for Diabetic Retinopathy

People with severe diabetes for a long time are at high risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Pregnant mothers with diabetes are also prone to this condition. Pregnant mothers with diabetes are advised to seek a professional eye exam during early stages of the pregnancy.

How are macular oedema and diabetic retinopathy detected?
These two eye problems can be detected through a detailed eye exam. An eye care expert may conduct either of the following tests:

  • Visual Acuity Test -This test checks your ability to see at near and far distances.
  • Dilated eye examination – An optician places drops in your eyes to dilate the pupils. Note that this allows a detailed analysis of your optic nerve and retina. 

 

Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment

To prevent further development of the disease, patients with diabetics are advised to keenly watch their blood sugar, pressure and cholesterol levels. Proliferative retinopathy is normally treated with laser light to eliminate the abnormal blood capillaries. One does not have to be admitted to the hospital to receive this treatment as it is normally accomplished in short-span sessions. After the treatment you may notice partial loss of side vision, which is minor and cannot be compared to the risk of total loss of sight.
Severe cases of diabetic retinopathy can be addressed through surgery – called a vitrectomy. Victrectomy involves draining of blood from the centre part of the eyeball.

Macula oedema Treatment
Macula oedema is normally treated with laser light medical technology. This process aims at reducing the volume of fluid deposits in the retina and preventing further leakages. This procedure stabilizes vision and cuts down the risk of blindness by 50 percent. Laser technology may also be used to improve vision in few cases of blindness.

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