Diabetes can affect the eyes in a number of ways. The most serious eye condition with diabetes involves the retina, and, more specifically, the network of blood vessels lying within it. The name of this condition is diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is usually graded according to how severe it is. The three main stages:
1. Background diabetic retinopathy
This condition is in people who have had diabetes for a long time, vision will be normal with no threat to your sight.
If background diabetic retinopathy becomes more severe, the macula area may become involved - Maculopathy - if this happens your central vision will gradually get worse. The amount of central vision varies from person to person. Maculopathy is the main cause of loss of vision and may occur gradually but progressively. It is rare to lose all your sight.
3. Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
As the eye condition worsens, it can sometimes cause the blood vessels in the retina to become blocked, then, new vessels will form in the eye - Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy. The new vessels can be weak and can grow in the wrong place. As a result the vessels can bleed and cause scar tissue to form in the eye. The scarring pulls and distorts the retina, which can result in a retinal detachment.
Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy is rarer than background retinopathy. The new vessels rarely affect your vision, but their consequences may cause your vision to get worse. Visual loss in this case is often sudden and severe. Your vision may become blurred and patchy. Without treatment, total loss of vision may happen.
The importance of early treatment
As most sight loss due to diabetes is preventable, remember:
- Early diagnosis is vital
- Have an eye examination every year - eye examinations are free for people with diabetes
- Do not wait until your vision has deteriorated to have an eye examination
What is the treatment?
Most sight-threatening problems caused by diabetic retinopathy can be managed by laser treatment if given early enough. Although it will only preserve your sight - not make it better.