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This is a term used to describe the common eye complications seen in people with diabetes. It includes diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular oedema, cataracts and glaucoma.
You can reduce your risk by having your eyes checked as soon as possible after being diagnosed with diabetes (this is called a screening test) and then at regular intervals thereafter.
Keeping the diabetes under control is the most important thing you can do – this means eating a balanced diet, getting exercise, not smoking, and monitoring your blood sugar levels. You should also see your doctor regularly to have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked. If you experience any changes in your vision, have your eyes checked immediately.
Diabetic macular oedema is a form of diabetic retinopathy.
It occurs when the swelling involves the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for central vision. Vision can become blurred and distorted, resulting in trouble reading, recognising faces and driving. Macular oedema (swelling) is the usual cause of vision loss related to diabetes and the level of impairment can be significant.
Vision can often be improved by treatment, but the main goal is to stabilise your condition and prevent it from getting worse. The three main treatments of diabetic retinopathy are injections into the eye, laser treatment or vitrectomy surgery. Your doctor will recommend the most appropriate course of treatment.
Smoking is not a risk factor for diabetic eye damage, but it can damage the eye in other ways. It increases the risk of developing cataracts,1 blockages of retinal arteries2 and the wet form of age-related macular degeneration3. Diabetics who smoke also increase their risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure.
Special anaesthetic eye drops are usually used to prevent pain and, for patients undergoing vitrectomy surgery, a sedative is given to relieve anxiety. Following laser treatment or surgery, you may feel some mild discomfort the next day.
Cheung et al. Diabetic retinopathy. Lancet. 2010 Jul 10;376(9735):124-36. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(09)62124-3. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(09)62124-3
Kolar. Risk factors for central and branch retinal vein occlusion: a meta-analysis of published clinical data. J Ophthalmol. 2014;2014:724780. doi: 10.1155/2014/724780. Epub 2014 Jun 9. doi: https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/724780 ↩︎
The information on this page is general in nature. All medical and surgical procedures have potential benefits and risks. Consult your ophthalmologist for specific medical advice.
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