“About one person in fifty in the UK is affected by Diabetes Mellitus or “sugar diabetes”. This means that the body cannot cope normally with sugar and other carbohydrates in the diet.” – Royal College of Ophthalmologists, 1998
Diabetes is currently the leading cause of sight loss in the United Kingdom between the ages of 20 and 65 years (Kanski 1999) so regular eye examinations are extremely important.
It is well-known that if you have diabetes you are more likely to have eye problems. Most of these problems can be prevented with careful eye care.
Wolverhampton has a well-established diabetes retinal screening scheme, under which over 5000 patients a year are screened. Accredited optometrists examine patients with dilated pupils using direct and indirect ophthalmoscopy techniques.
All of the optometrists at Flint and Partners are accredited for Wolverhampton diabetes screening and appointments are available at any practice.
In Staffordshire, the new diabetes screening scheme has been running since January 2006 and involves screening with retinal photography. Our Codsall practice is one of the small number of optometry practices involved in the scheme locally. Diabetic patients are reviewed each year with dilating drops and digital photographs of each eye.
Blurring of vision is a common symptom, especially when your Diabetes is first becoming controlled and may last a few days or even weeks. This occurs when the lens inside your eyes swells as it absorbs by-products of the sugars in your blood. This resolves without treatment as the diabetes becomes controlled. Diabetic patients are more prone to developing CATARACTS, but these can usually be removed as a day-case at an Ophthalmic hospital.
The most serious diabetic eye condition is Diabetic Retinopathy. Early, or “Background” Retinopathy is very common in those who have had Diabetes for many years and your Optometrist may detect abnormalities on examination, but there is no threat to your sight.
The two types of sight threatening retinopathy are:
Maculopathy is a condition when the blood vessels in the centre of the retina start to leak, this causes your central vision to gradually worsen, the extent of which varies from person to person and can cause difficulty with reading and recognizing faces. Peripheral (side) vision is not affected through Maculopathy.
Proliferative retinopathy arises when the retinal blood vessels become blocked. The eye tries to repair itself by growing new blood vessels, but unfortunately these are very weak and bleed easily and can cause scar tissue formation. If the scar tissue contracts, it can pull the retina out of position and cause a Retinal Detachment.
This is a rarer condition than background retinopathy and is more common in those who have been Insulin dependent for a long time. If untreated, this type of retinopathy can lead to total loss of vision. Most sight-threatening diabetic complications can be prevented with treatment – laser – if caught early enough. Laser treatment seals up leaking vessels and can cause new blood vessels to disappear, but it is important to realize laser aims to preserve the existing sight, not to improve it.
Please feel free to discuss OCT with your Optometrist on your next visit
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