Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of type 1 or 2 diabetes that damages the blood vessels within the retina, causing them to leak and bleed. Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy can include floaters, blurred vision, dark or empty areas in the visual field, or reduced colour perception. However it is important to know that diabetic retinopathy can be severely advanced and threatening imminent blindness with minimal or no symptoms at all.
Adults who have been newly diagnosed with diabetes should schedule an eye examination within a couple of months of receiving their diagnosis. Newly diagnosed teenagers or children should discuss with their family doctor or endocrinologist the appropriate timing of their first diabetic eye examination. Once screening examinations begin they should be continued at least yearly, and will be scheduled more often if diabetic eye disease is detected. Patients with a longer history of diabetes and poorly controlled blood sugars or blood pressure are more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy and will need more frequent monitoring exams.
If diabetes is well controlled and eye examinations are scheduled appropriately, patients can enjoy a lifetime of good vision. However, diabetic eye disease remains one of the leading causes of blindness in Canada due to difficulty controlling sugars, blood pressures, and missed screening opportunities.
There are a number of treatment options available for diabetic retinopathy, depending on its severity. Treatment options include: Intravitreal anti-VEGF injections or steroids into the eye to reduce swelling, or laser treatments to reduce retinal swelling or redirect nutrients from the peripheral retina to the macula. In severe cases where there is severe bleeding inside the eye or scarring of the retina has occurred vitrectomy and membrane peeling surgery may be needed. Dr. Mitchell will determine the best treatment options for you in the event you have developed diabetic retinopathy.