Diabetic eye disease

Diabetes affects the eyes as well as other parts of the body and the extent depends on the control and how long you have had it for. Approximately over a 1000 people lose their vision due to diabetes every year in the UK. Good control slows down the changes that damage the body and prompt treatment can help preserve your vision.

Diabetic eye disease is called diabetic retinopathy. It can affect the eyes in three ways.

Firstly, early changes are called Background Diabetic Retinopathy where the blood vessels are affected by early changes and form small haemorrhages.

Secondly, the vessels can get leaky with swelling or water logging of the central part of your retina called the macula and is termed as Diabetic Maculopathy. This may affect your vision making it blurry causing difficulty with reading.

Lastly, the small blood vessels can get blocked due to the diabetic changes causing deprivation of oxygen in the retina leading to the production of new vessels which can bleed resulting in loss of vision. This is termed as Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy. The common symptoms of an early bleed are floaters.

Diabetes is commonly associated with Cataracts which can also make the vision blurry.

Diabetic maculopathy and proliferative retinopathy have traditionally been treated with laser in the past. With the use of intravitreal injections like Lucentis, Eylea, Avastin, Triamcinolone, Ozurdex and Illuvien, complications such as Diabetic Maculopathy and Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy can be successfully treated early, thereby minimising the loss of vision. Some treatments are not available on the NHS and hence the decision to go ahead with private treatment may be beneficial for preserving your vision.

Ms Sandhu is Moorfields trained with a Fellowship in Medical Retina and a specialist research interest in Diabetic Retinopathy.

Ms Sandhu is one of the few cataract surgeons specialising in diabetic cataracts as management of diabetic eye disease is absolutely essential before cataract surgery with careful monitoring afterwards for obtaining the best visual results.