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    • Diabetic Retinopathy (DR)

      What is diabetic retinopathy?

      The most common cause of vision loss in diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disease caused by increasing levels of sugar in the blood. In the long-term, this condition mainly affects kidneys, the nerves in the limbs and the eyes. When diabetes affects the small blood vessels in the part of your eye called the retina, this is known as diabetic retinopathy. The retina lines the inside of your eye and acts rather like the film in a camera. In the early stages, diabetic retinopathy will not affect your sight. However, if the changes get worse, eventually your sight will be affected.

      The importance of screening for diabetic retinopathy

      Untreated diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common causes of blindness in the working-age population. Laser treatment is very effective at reducing loss of sight from diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy does not usually affect your sight until the changes are quite far gone. At this stage, laser treatment is much less effective.

      Screening for diabetic retinopathy

      Screening means examining your eyes regularly to detect the specific changes of diabetic retinopathy that could soon affect your sight. The name of these changes is sight threatening diabetic retinopathy. Screening will detect whether you need to be followed up or treated in an eye clinic for diabetic retinopathy.

      All people with diabetes need eye (retina) screening

      All people with diabetes aged 11 years and over should have eye screening at least every year. This is equally true whether you need insulin, tablets or manage your diet to keep your diabetes under control. This also applies if your physician or a consultant diabetologist helps you to manage your diabetes.

      You are at greater risk if :

      •     you have had diabetes for a long time;

      •     your diabetes is poorly controlled;

      •     you have high blood pressure; or

      •     you are on insulin treatment

      Diabetic retinopathy is best detected by examining the back of your eyes to look at your retina as a part of routine screening yearly or more frequently as outlined above.This is done by indirect ophthalmoscopic examination and slit lamp biomicroscopy. When required photographic documentation, retinal angiography, scanning of the retina (OCT), sonography has to be done to know the disease severity and plan the management accordingly.

      You must seek urgent retina evaluation if

      •     you get a sudden increase in floaters in your vision.

      •     your sight suddenly gets worse, distorted or you lose all or part of your vision

      Reducing the risk of sight-threatening eye changes

      •     Aim to control your blood glucose levels as well as possible.

      •     Make sure your blood pressure is regularly monitored.

      •     Go for regular eye screening.

      •     Get advice if you have a problem with your sight.

      • Go for regular diabetes checks.

      For your health in general, you should also have your blood lipids and cholesterol checked and not smoke.

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