Diabetic Eye Disease

What is diabetic retinopathy?

All patients with diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.  It is a disease affecting the small blood vessels in the back of the eye that are responsible for vision. In severe cases the retinal function can diminish, impacting on visual sharpness.

How is it detected?

Your ophthalmologist will assess the health of your retina through dilated pupils.  If no signs, or minimal signs of diabetic retinopathy are detected, treatment may not be needed. However your ophthalmologist will monitor your eye health at subsequent visits.  If moderate to severe signs are detected further tests may be performed to determine the extent of the damage.

FFA Brochure

What treatments are available for diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy can cause the blood vessels to swell or grow abnormally leading to haemorrhaging or fluid round the retina.  Depending on the extent of your diabetic retinopathy, treatment may or may not be offered. While no treatment can cure diabetic retinopathy there are options to prevent further vision loss and slow its progression.


Your ophthalmologist may use a laser (a high energy, pinpoint lights beam) to seal leaking blood vessels or to shrink abnormal vessels.  Depending on the extent of your diabetic eye disease this may be done over a number of visits.

After your laser treatment you will need someone to drive you home, and it may also be helpful to bring sunglasses as your pupils will be dilated.  You may have a headache if the treatment is lengthy and your eye may feel irritated.  Some patients notice that their vision is not as good as it was prior to treatment, but their vision usually improves over a few days.

Avastin / Triamcinolone

The area of the retina that provides the sharpest vision is called the macula.  In some cases of diabetic retinopathy, macula oedema can occur which is a swelling of the macula caused by blood or fluid.  This will cause blurriness and/or distortion of your vision.  Laser treatment is not recommended due to the high level of sensitivity of retinal tissue in the area.  Alternatively your ophthalmologist may prescribe an injection into the eye to “dry up” the fluid in the area and preserve any remaining vision.

Suggested additions – post op instruction sheet for each doctor

Diabetic retinopathy study

Can anything slow down the progression of diabetic retinopathy?

The longer you have diabetes the higher your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.  It is important to control your blood sugar levels (BSL) and unless your GP suggests otherwise you should monitor them daily.  If your BSL fluctuates or stays above normal, the rate of your diabetic eye disease will be increased. So it’s important to see your GP or diabetic specialist to gain better control of your BSL with diet, exercise, medication or insulin.  It’s not just about your eyes, as diabetes can affect other areas of the body as well.

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