Diabetes is one of the most common medical conditions in Australia, affecting more than 1.7 million people. In some cases, diabetes may threaten the vision and even lead to blindness. Luckily, with good control of blood sugars and blood pressure, as well as cessation of smoking, most of these complications are avoidable. If complications do occur however, timely detection and intervention from your ophthalmologist may help to preserve your vision.
How can my diabetes affect my eyes?
Diabetes can damage the tiny blood vessels that supply the retina and other ocular structures. This results in pathological changes in the retina – termed ‘retinopathy’.
Some forms of retinopathy may result in blood vessels that leak fluid into the macula, that part of your retina which serves your central vision and allows you to perceive detail. The resultant swelling may cause vision loss. This is called macula oedema, or maculopathy.
If the blood supply to parts of the retina is severely impaired by damage to blood vessels, the eye may respond by forming fragile tufts of new blood vessels – called neovascularisation. These vessels may bleed with associated vision loss, or in severe cases form scar tissue which contracts and may cause retinal detachment.
What treatments are available?
This depends upon your particular condition, but may include laser, injections of various drugs into the eye, or in the most severe cases surgery may be required.
Most important of all in managing diabetes complications is ensuring that your blood sugars are controlled as tightly as possible. Close control of other risk factors for retinopathy such as high blood pressure and smoking is also required.
In our practice, Dr Luckie specializes in the medical and surgical management of diabetic retinopathy. Dr Heery, Dr Moodie and Dr Arnold specialise in the medical management of diabetic retinopathy. All of our doctors are closely involved in regular screening of diabetic patients.