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Diabetic Retinopathy

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication arising out of diabetes that affects the eyes. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue in the eye. When the blood vessels in the retina are damaged, the condition is called diabetic retinopathy. At first, there may be only mild problems with vision, but there are chances that diabetic retinopathy can eventually cause blindness.

Possible Causes of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication arising from high blood sugar levels and affects the eyes. The primary diabetic retinopathy cause is damage to the blood vessels of the retina. Excess sugar in your blood can disrupt the blood supply to the retina by blocking the blood vessels. As a result, the eye tries to grow new blood vessels which are not developed and can leak or bleed.

The cause of the disease depends on the type: 

  • In non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR): This is the response of the retina to high blood sugar levels; there is no growth of new blood vessels. If the blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol are controlled well, then the condition can improve. 
  • In proliferative diabetic retinopathy, there is growth of abnormal new blood vessels. These can cause bleeding inside the eye and scar tissue formation, leading to retinal detachment. 

    Often abnormal vessels can cause a pressure build up in the eyeball, resulting in glaucoma, damaging the optic nerve, and eventually leading to blindness.

Risk Factors of Diabetic Retinopathy

Anyone who has type 1 or type 2 diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy. You are at a higher risk of developing diabetic retinopathy if you have:

  • Poor control of your blood sugar level. The longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to develop this eye condition.
  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Pregnancy may worsen diabetic retinopathy, so if you're pregnant, your eye doctor will be vigilant and will monitor your eyes throughout your pregnancy.
  • Smoking and use of tobacco. 

Signs & Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

When the cataract is nascent, you may not have any symptoms and there may be only mild vision problems. But as time passes, it can lead to blindness. 

As the disease progresses you may experience spots or dark strings dancing in front of your eyes, blurring of vision, diminished colour vision and loss of vision. Both the eyes may get affected by diabetic retinopathy.

Diagnosis of Diabetic Retinopathy

At Medcare, the eye specialist will conduct a systematic diabetic retinopathy diagnosis. The specialist will dilate your eyes with drops, to conduct a thorough check of your pupils, to note if there is any abnormal growth of new blood vessels or scar tissue, swelling, blood or fatty deposits in the retina, blood flowing into the vitreous, retinal detachment or damage to your optic nerve. 

Other tests may include a vision test, measuring the eye pressure for glaucoma and checking for cataract. 

The ophthalmologist may also conduct the following tests:

  • Fluorescein angiography using images to pinpoint blood vessels that are closed, broken down or leaking fluid.
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT) examination to measure the thickness of the retina, which will help determine whether fluid has leaked into retinal tissue.

Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment in Dubai & Sharjah

Diabetic retinopathy involves the abnormal growth of blood vessels in the retina. Treatment is determined based on the type of diabetic retinopathy and its severity.

In case of early diabetic retinopathy, if you are able to control your blood sugar levels, the progression of mild diabetic retinopathy slows down. In case of advanced diabetic retinopathy, surgery is usually required. The surgical options are:

  • Photocoagulation or focal laser treatment, to control the flow of fluid into the eyes.
  • Pan-retinal photocoagulation or scatter laser treatment, which does the job of shrinking the abnormal blood vessels.
  • Anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) therapy involves injecting medication into the vitreous in the eye to reduce the swelling of the retina and arrest the growth of new blood vessels.
  • In vitrectomy, an incision is made to remove blood from the vitreous of the eye as well as the scar tissue that's affecting the retina.

At Medcare, our highly qualified eye specialists and cutting-edge technology will treat you well. To book an appointment with the retina specialist, click here.

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Diabetic Retinopathy FAQs:

Diabetic Retinopathy FAQs:


  • What complications can occur in diabetic retinopathy?

    A: Complications can lead to serious vision problems like (i) vitreous haemorrhage -blood may flow into the vitreous and block your vision, (ii) retinal detachment – as the retina gets detached from the back of your eye you see spots and lights flashing in front of your eyes with loss of vision, (iii) glaucoma – new blood vessel cause pressure to build on the eyeball damaging the optic nerve and finally (iv) complete blindness.

  • How can this condition be prevented?

    A: First and foremost manage your diabetes, monitor your blood sugar closely, do a haemoglobin A1C test to check your 3 months’ average sugar level, keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under check, quit smoking and pay heed to vision changes. However, since diabetes does not produce any visual symptoms till the late stage of the disease, it is imperative to get a retina check-up at least once every year.

  • What is the first sign of diabetic retinopathy?

    A: People with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are susceptible to diabetic retinopathy. It is a condition that can cause deterioration of the vision and can eventually lead to blindness. You may not notice any initial symptoms of this condition. 

    However, as the disease progresses, you will experience blurred vision, spots or strings in the line of sight (floaters), partial or complete colour blindness, and over some time, even complete loss of vision. The only way to prevent diabetic retinopathy is through careful management of the condition at the initial stage.

    Want to know how to prevent diabetic retinopathy? Book an appointment with a Medcare diabetic retinopathy specialist today.

  • How can you tell if diabetes is affecting your eyes?

    A: Diabetes affects every part of your body, including the eyes as the fluid in the body starts seeping into the lens of the eye. You are actually at risk of complete blindness over a period of time if you have diabetes. 

    Diabetic retinopathy is a condition brought on by diabetes, which starts with blurred vision, floaters, tunnel vision, or when you begin to experience dark and empty spots in your vision. If not managed properly, it eventually weakens the eyes and can cause colour blindness and even complete blindness due to damage to the blood vessels and retina.

    Need an accurate diagnosis and treatment for diabetic retinopathy? Book an appointment with a Medcare diabetic retinopathy specialist today.

  • How long does it take for diabetes to damage eyes?

    A: There is no definite time period between which diabetes sets in and starts affecting your eyes. Some patients don't experience any vision issues, while others may see numerous dark spots and floaters in their vision. 

    Depending on the level of your diabetes, you may experience swelling in the lens of the eye, retina damage, weakened blood vessels and more. Since there are no noticeable symptoms during the initial stages, a lot of patients don’t realise that they may have diabetes-related eye problems for a long time. 

    Need treatment for diabetic retinopathy? Book an appointment with a Medcare diabetic retinopathy specialist today.

  • What does a diabetic eye exam include?

    A: Diabetic retinopathy, which is caused due to both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, may go unnoticed during the initial stages since many patients don't experience any prominent symptoms.

    If you have diabetes, it is essential that you visit an ophthalmologist. To start with, your eye will be checked with a device called the ophthalmoscope. The doctor may even administer a few eye drops to dilate the pupils, which will be examined through photographs. 

    Additionally, since blood vessels weaken due to diabetic retinopathy, fluorescein angiography may also be performed to check for changes in the structure and function of the blood vessels.

    Want to get checked for diabetic retinopathy? Book an appointment with a Medcare diabetic retinopathy specialist today.

  • What is the best treatment for diabetic retinopathy?

    A: The treatment for diabetic retinopathy is two-pronged. The first part includes taking the right medication and making lifestyle modifications to control your blood sugar levels, which could further worsen the condition. 

    Secondly, you may be suggested a vitrectomy or a laser treatment to prevent further damage to vessels and preserve your vision. The best time to treat diabetic retinopathy is before the problem starts. This makes it especially important to get your eyes examined even if you do not have any vision issues.

    Need safe and effective treatment for diabetic retinopathy? Book an appointment with a Medcare diabetic retinopathy specialist today.

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