Diabetic Retinopathy

Effect of Diabetes on the eye:
Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes Mellitus can affect the eye in many ways. A common complication is diabetic retinopathy where the small vessels of the retina (nerve layer) are affected. This is a major cause of blindness in developed countries, including Singapore. The incidence of diabetic retinopathy increases with the duration of diabetes, and those with more than 10 years of diabetes have a high chance of developing some degree of blood vessel abnormalities and retinopathy.

Diabetic Retinopathy:

1 / Non-proliferative Retinopathy

The early stage of diabetic retinopathy is called background retinopathy. At this stage there are tiny blood spots, small microvascular changes (microaneurysms) and leakage of proteins and fat (exudates). In the early stages, one may not notice any visual symptoms.

2 / Proliferative Retinopathy

As the retinopathy progresses, new abnormal vessels may develop (neovascularisation) on the surface of the retina or the optic nerve. These abnormal vessels may rupture and bleed into the eye and cause a sudden loss of vision. There may also be scarring and fibrosis which may cause traction and pull on the retina, resulting in retinal detachment and loss of vision.

3 / Diabetic maculopathy

If the macula (the central retina) is affected and there is leakage of fluid and swelling, vision may be lost.

Eye examination

Those with diabetes should go for regular eye checks to monitor for eye complications. The eye specialist will carry out a thorough check which includes dilating the pupils so the retina can be examined. Sometimes, a fundus flourescein angiography (FFA) is performed to evaluate the severity and extent of the disease.

Determine the Best possible Treatment With Early Diabetic Eye Screening

Most people, including diabetics themselves, are unaware that diabetes can affect the eyes. A majority of those with diabetic eye disease goes undetected and untreated. Diabetic eye screening is very useful in picking up the disease early so that treatment may be started timely.