Diabetes mostly today is a lifestyle disease. Obesity, lack of exercise and poor diet has created a huge issue in society.
From an eye and vision perspective a condition called diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in an age group under 50 years of age.
What is diabetic retinopathy?
The back of the eye is called the retina. It has a very intricate and important blood vessel system. Diabetes over time significantly impacts the ability of this blood vessel system in transporting blood and oxygen and nutrients around. This in turn slowly will degenerate the retina, which is responsible for vision.
Diabetic retinopathy can consist of the following signs when your optometrist looks at the back of your eye:
- Blot and dot haemorrhages
- Exudates - signs of poor blood flow
- New blood vessels at the optic disc - new vessels are created due to low oxygen supply in the retina. The body creates thes to keep the retina functional.
- New blood vessels elsewhere - these new blood vessels are very fragile and can haemorrhage and cause dramatic damage.
- IRMA - Intra retinal microvascular anomalies
- Macular Oedema - this is swelling at the macula area
Diabetic retinopathy is treatable if found in its early stages. Referral to a retinal specialist is preferable, when treatment is finally indicated.
From the signs listed above it might seem easy to diagnose diabetic retinopathy. If it is in the advanced stages, this is probably true, but in the early stages it is important to look carefully and with the correct equipment. It is also important to make sure that dilating eye drops have been used so that the pupils of the eyes are opened up to maximum size.
Pupil dilatation allows the observing eye practitioner to see the retina (back of the eye) significantly easier. Digital Retinal Photography and retinal scanning using instruments like Stratus OCT, Cirrus OCT or other OCTs allows more detail to be analyzed and therefore a more accurate diagnosis to occur.
Bottom line is that diabetic retinopathy indicates a compromised retina and probably the rest of the body.
Ultimately the best treatment for diabetic retinopathy is to control the diabetes as diligently as possible. This might sound obvious but the problem is that having diabetes does not cause any significant symptoms unless sugar levels are going haywire.
From an eye perspective a yearly dilated retina examination is your best defense against this disease process. Are you diabetic? Have you had your retina examined within the last year?
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The Eye Practice has experienced optometrists and all the equipment necessary to get the management of your eyes right.