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Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of preventable blindness in working age people in Australia. Over 1 million Australians are known to have diabetes and it is postulated that many more Australians have diabetes but just haven’t been diagnosed yet.
Diabetes damages blood vessels all over the body, including those within the eye. Poorly controlled diabetes is associated with damage to retinal blood vessels, causing them to leak and bleed. Bulging of the blood vessels (microaneurysms) and associated leakage of fluid from inside the blood vessel out into the retinal tissue within the macula region is termed diabetic macula oedema and can cause progressive loss of central vision and even legal blindness, though it won’t cause ‘black’ or total blindness.
Further damage to blood vessels results in vessel closure and loss, stopping the passage of nutrients and oxygen to living retinal tissue. This results in the release of chemicals within the eye that cause aberrant, unwanted blood vessels to grow. These malformed vessels can leak and bleed, and may eventually have devastating effects on the eye and vision.
Diabetic retinopathy can be without vision symptoms, so it is important to have a dilated fundus examination every 2 years if you have diabetes and have had no previous sign of diabetic retinopathy, or every 12 months or more frequently if your eye specialist detects damage to your retina from diabetes.
A healthy retina mapped with enhanced scanning laser OCT technology
Macular oedema: a feature of diabetic retinopathy mapped with enhanced scanning laser OCT technology
Treatment options include retinal laser therapy or injections of medication directly into the back part of the eye. If the disease has progressed, and new blood vessels are suspected or clinically apparent, a retinal angiogram can be used to confirm their presence and guide treatments such as retinal laser therapy.
At Toowoomba Ophthalmic Consultants we conduct a careful dilated fundus examination for patients attending for a diabetes review. If macula oedema is observed or suspected, Heidelberg Spectralis OCT examination is used to define the extend of disease and guide treatment options that may be available to you.
All surgical procedures carry some risk. The information provided here is for general educational purposes only. Please contact Dr David Holcombe of Toowoomba Ophthalmic Consultants to discuss the options that are appropriate for your individual situation.