Effects of Diabetes on the Eye

Diabetes can cause moderate to severe loss of vision if it is poorly controlled.  It is very important that you attend for regular Optometrist and diabetic eye screening checkups. Diabetes also causes earlier onset of cataracts.   However, the most damaging effects of diabetes occur at the back of the eye on the retina.

Diabetic Macular Oedema (DMO)

Diabetes may cause damage to the delicate blood vessels in the central part of the retinal camera film in the eye (macula)producing leakage of fluid and swelling (oedema) resulting in reduced central vision. Untreated, you will probably end up with permanently impaired reading and distance vision and also likely lose your ability to drive.  Treatments for DMO are however better than ever, and include laser treatment and intravitreal eye injections (see below and FAQs)  

Non-proliferative (background) diabetic retinopathy. This is where progressive injury to and blockage of the blood vessels in the more peripheral parts of your retina result in damage to the delicate retinal cellsYour sight will generally not be affected, but you must attend regular screening to monitor progression.  

Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR)

If the damage to the retina from the blocked blood vessels progresses and becomes significant, it can stimulate the growth of new abnormal, fragile blood vessels from the surface of the retina

Vitreous Haemorrhage

Left untreated, the abnormal blood vessels can bleed (haemorrhage) into the clear jelly (vitreous humour) which fills most of your eye. This is called a vitreous haemorrhage.  Most bleeds are small and clear spontaneously over weeks or months. With small bleeds you will notice sudden worsening of floaters, often with a red tint to them. If, however, your bleed is severe, then you will suffer from severe loss of vision as light will not be able to reach the retina because it is obscured by the vitreous haemorrhage.

Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR)

If the damage to the retina from the blocked blood vessels progresses and becomes significant, it can stimulate the growth of new abnormal, fragile blood vessels from the surface of the retina

Vitreous Haemorrhage

Left untreated, the abnormal blood vessels can bleed (haemorrhage) into the clear jelly (vitreous humour) which fills most of your eye. This is called a vitreous haemorrhage.  Most bleeds are small and clear spontaneously over weeks or months. With small bleeds you will notice sudden worsening of floaters, often with a red tint to them. If, however, your bleed is severe, then you will suffer from severe loss of vision as light will not be able to reach the retina because it is obscured by the vitreous haemorrhage.

Retinal Detachment

If the PDR does not receive sufficient treatment in time, then your condition may worsen to the point where scar tissue may grow on the surface of your retina and contract, causing your retina to detach. This requires surgery which may be needed urgently in some instances. Untreated, there is a very high chance of blindness.

Although modern treatments are very successful in preventing blindness in most people, occasionally poor control and compliance, combined with late presentation and severe disease may result in very high, difficult to control pressures in the eye and total blindness in that eye.

Tractional retinal detachment

Diabetic Retinopathy Treatments

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