Diabetes mellitus is a slowly progressing disease. The consequential damages of diabetes will ultimately also affect the eyes. In the long run, diabetes will cause damage to the blood vessels of the retina and can change or even destroy the vascular walls.
Diabetic retinopathy which can also be described as a microangiopathy of the retina will over time affect nearly all people suffering from diabetes. Because the risk factors for retinal damage are high blood sugar values, high blood pressure and lipometabolic disturbances. Two complications jeopardise the eyesight: diabetic macular oedema and proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
Symptoms related to diabetic retinopathy
To begin with, diabetic retinopathy will often go unnoticed. At a later point, visual problems such as blurred or distorted vision will occur. We recommend to urgently consult an eye specialist if vitreous haemorrhage occurs, which manifests itself as black dots in the field of vision (so-called shower of floaters). A shower of floaters and flashes of light can also be symptoms of retinal detachment, which can lead to a complete loss of vision.
How is diabetic retinopathy treated?
Where the diabetic retinopathy is not yet too advanced, it is possible to prevent a further advancement, for instance by performing laser surgery on the retina. In this event, the laser treatment will be performed under local anaesthesia on an outpatient basis. If we are dealing with central retinal alterations with a swelling of the centre of the retina (macular oedema), the repeat injection of therapeutic substances can depending on the individual case also be a promising treatment option as an alternative to the more common laser treatment. The injections are applied on an outpatient basis under local anaesthesia of the eye in a sterile operating room.
Diabetic retinopathy check-ups
As the disease will not make itself noticed at the beginning, regular check-ups are all the more important. We therefore recommend all diabetics to have their eyes checked at least once a year and if possible to participate in a “disease management programme” (DMP). For this, the eyes are examined with dilated pupils. If the patient already suffers from diabetic retinopathy, we recommend a digital fluorescence angiography (colour imaging) and if required a tomography of the retina (optical coherence tomography/OCT).