If you have type 2 diabetes, you are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy if your blood glucose level is not well-managed. This is a serious complication of diabetes that occurs when high concentrations of glucose in your blood impair the blood vessels of your retina. The retina receives images and sends them to your brain to be processed, so, if the retina is damaged, you'll experience reduced clarity of vision. Severe cases of diabetic retinopathy can cause complete loss of vision, so prompt treatment is recommended. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for this condition.
In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, you likely won't notice any changes to your vision. However, cell damage is still occurring and can be detected by your optometrist during an eye test. When symptoms emerge, it's common for sufferers to start noticing their eyes are sensitive to both natural and artificial light. You may also notice a reduction in your night vision, such as when driving at night. Other symptoms include eye pain, blurred vision and seeing floaters and flashes, and these symptoms can come and go.
The retinas are examined during a routine eye test, and your optometrist will save images of your retinas so they can spot even subtle changes to your eye health over time. If there's concern over the condition of your retinas, the optometrist will arrange for you to been seen by an ophthalmologist who will carry out a fluorescein angiogram test. This test can identify abnormal blood vessels and show the extent of the damage, and the ophthalmologist will use dye in your eyes to get clearer images.
If you're diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, it's important to work with your diabetic nurse to get your blood glucose level stabilised, as the condition can recur after treatment if glucose concentrations remain high. The only available treatment for this condition at the moment is laser therapy, and treatment can't restore lost sight. The goal of treatment is prevent any further damage to your sight, and this is achieved by using a small laser to seal off or destroy damaged blood vessels. After you've had laser treatment you should have your eyes tested again, as you may need glasses to improve your vision due to the permanent damage caused by high blood glucose.
You should have regular eye tests if you have type 2 diabetes, but if you're experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, don't wait until your next routine eye test to have your eyes examined. Your optometrist can check the health of your eyes whenever you notice changes to your vision or experience any discomfort.