Diabetes and eye

Diabetes mellitus is a disorder in which blood sugar (glucose) levels are abnormally high because the body does not produce enough insulin to meet its needs. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas.

What is diabetic eye disease?

Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may face as a complication of diabetes. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy retina is necessary for good vision.


Diabetic eye disease may include:

* Diabetic retinopathy- damage to the blood vessels in the retina.

* Macular edema - Fluid can leak into the center of the macula, the part of the eye where sharp, straight-ahead vision occurs

* Cataract- clouding of the eye's lens. Cataracts develop at an earlier age in people with diabetes.

* Glaucoma- increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision. A person with diabetes is nearly twice as likely to get glaucoma as other adults.

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. If you have diabetic retinopathy, at first you may not notice changes to your vision. But over time, diabetic retinopathy can get worse and cause vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes.


Diabetic Retinopathy

What are the stages of diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy has mainly two stages:

Nonproliferative Retinopathy:

The earliest retinal changes of diabetic retinopathy are called non–Proliferative or background diabetic retinopathy and result from damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. At first these vessels may begin to bleed and leak fluid into the surrounding retinal tissue. In the earliest stages of this condition, the patients usually have no symptoms and have 6/6 vision.

At this advanced stage, the signals sent by the retina for nourishment trigger the growth of new blood vessels. This condition is called Proliferative retinopathy. These new blood vessels are abnormal and fragile. If they leak blood, severe vision loss and even blindness can result.



* Often there are no symptoms in the first stage (PDR) of the disease, nor is there any pain.

* But in the second stage(NPDR),you will see a few specks of blood, or spots, "floating" in your vision

* If left untreated, proliferative retinopathy can cause severe vision loss and even blindness. Also, the earlier you receive treatment, the more likely treatment will be effective

Normal retina

Diabetic Retinopathy Diabetic Retinopathy



Don't wait for symptoms.

Diabetic retinopathy and macular edema are detected during a comprehensive eye exam that includes:

1. Visual acuity test. This eye chart test measures how well you see at various distances.

2. Dilated eye exam. Drops are placed in your eyes to widen, or dilate, the pupils. This allows to see more of the inside of your eyes to check retina and optic nerve for signs of damage and other eye problems. After the exam, your close-up vision may remain blurred for several hours.

3. Tonometry. An instrument measures the pressure inside the eye. Anesthetic drops may be applied to your eye for this test.


1. To prevent progression of diabetic retinopathy, people with diabetes should control their levels of blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol.

2. Proliferative retinopathy is treated with laser. This procedure is called scatter laser treatment. This helps to shrink the abnormal blood vessels. Scatter laser treatment can save the rest of your sight.

1. If the bleeding is severe, you may need a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy. During a vitrectomy, blood is removed from the center of your eye.

4. Macular edema is treated with laser. This procedure is called focal laser treatment. Your doctor places up to several hundred small laser burns in the areas of retinal leakage surrounding the macula. These burns slow the leakage of fluid and reduce the amount of fluid in the retina.

Who is at risk for diabetic retinopathy?

All people with diabetes--both type 1 and type 2--are at risk. That's why everyone with diabetes should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. The longer someone has diabetes, the more likely he or she will get diabetic retinopathy.

During pregnancy, diabetic retinopathy may be a problem for women with diabetes. To protect vision, every pregnant woman with diabetes should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam as soon as possible.