Diabetes is a common condition and becoming more common. Diabetic retinopathy is a consequence of diabetes and can develop without causing symptoms. This is why all diabetics should attend their annual screening test. Diabetic retinopathy can damage vision in two main ways.
Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
As Diabetic Retinopathy develops, the tiny blood vessels supplying the retina (the light sensitive layer within the eye) become damaged. Over time new fragile vessels can grow and cause injury to the eye and damage the sight by bleeding or distorting the retina with scar tissue. At this stage you have advanced diabetic eye disease. To prevent this happening you should control your diabetes and any associated hypertension or lipid problems and you should not smoke.
Panretinal laser photocoagulation is laser treatment that works to prevent the development of new blood vessels within the eye and to cause new blood vessels already there to regress. Laser is performed as an outpatient using a contact lens to focus light within the eye. You may need more than one treatment
Vitrectomy is an operation in which Dr Minihan makes tiny wounds into the eye. This is necessary when you have a non-clearing vitreous haemorrhage, or when the scar tissue within the eye pulls on the retina to such an extent that your vision is in danger.
Diabetes damages the tiny retinal blood vessels causing them to leak. This leakage affects the central part of the retina, the macula and so this condition is called Diabetic Macular Oedema. Untreated this leads to a decline in vision especially for fine visual tasks such as reading or colour appreciation.
Laser has been the mainstay of treatment for diabetic macular oedema for many years. This treatment is a localised precise treatment in the macular area. It prevents deterioration in vision.
More recently intravitreal injections have been used not only to prevent deterioration but also to improve vision. Many people may need a combination of injections and laser to maintain their vision. Dr Minihan will advise you on the best course of action.