Diabetic eye disease
Diabetic eye disease — known by its medical term, diabetic retinopathy — is an eye issue that specifically affects people who have Diabetes. If you have Diabetes, you should receive specialised screenings regularly. At our Midrand and Pretoria practices, Dr Boitumelo Khantsi offers comprehensive Diabetic Eye Exams for patients who have Diabetes.
Diabetic eye disease affects blood vessels in your retina, located in the back of your eyeball. The condition is the most common cause of permanent vision loss for people who have Diabetes, and it’s the leading cause of blindness among adults over the age of 20.
Cataracts and Glaucoma may also develop as a result of diabetic eye disease. A cataract is hazing or clouding of the eye’s lens caused by a build-up of protein within the lens that obscures vision. Adults who have Diabetes are two to five times more likely to develop cataracts than those people who don’t have Diabetes.
Cataracts may also form among younger-aged people with Diabetes.
Diabetic Retinopathy is a result of high blood sugar damaging the tiny blood vessels in your retina. The retina receives focused light that’s projected from the lens of the eye. It then converts it into impulses that are sent to your brain by the optic nerve.
The blood vessels that are weakened by the high sugar levels from Diabetes can haemorrhage (bleed) or leak fluid, which results in distorted vision. In severe cases, the blood vessels in the retina can accumulate on the surface of the retina, which can lead to cell loss in the retina, permanent scarring and ultimately vision loss.
Diabetic retinopathy typically progresses through four phases:
- Mild nonproliferative retinopathy: The first phase is when small areas of swelling called micro-aneurysms form in the blood vessels of the retina. These balloon-like areas of swelling may leak blood into your eye or fluid into your retina,
- Moderate nonproliferative retinopathy: The next phase of diabetic retinopathy occurs when the swelling blood vessels begin to distort and lose their ability to transport blood. This phase may start to change the appearance of your retina.
The onset of diabetic retinopathy may not present any symptoms at all. Symptoms usually only appear when the disease progresses to the state that it affects your vision. This is why it’s so important to get regular eye exams, especially if you know you have Diabetes.
- Severe nonproliferative retinopathy: In this phase, the swelling, blood and fluid block more blood vessels. By this point, the blood has begun to clot, preventing nutrients from reaching certain areas of your retina. These blood-deprived areas begin to secrete growths that signal the retina to grow new blood vessels to replace the blocked and damaged ones.
- Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR): The advanced phase of diabetic retinopathy is when the new blood vessels formed in severe nonproliferative retinopathy become weak and fragile. At this time, they also can leak and bleed. Additionally, the scar tissue from the old blood vessels that are blocked can contract and tear the retina, which causes retinal detachment, the separation of the retina from underlying tissue at the back of your eyeball. Retinal detachment may result in permanent blindness.
The blood and other fluid that leaks from blood vessels can cause eye floaters, also called blood spots in the eye. Floaters are not necessarily signs of diabetic eye disease, and they can go away on their own, but without treating the issue promptly, you increase the risk of permanent vision loss. If you have any visual abnormalities, you should always be evaluated with a thorough consultation and examination by an ophthalmologist as it may be a symptom or sign of a severe illness or condition. If you have any abnormal visual symptoms, give Dr Boitumelo Khantsi a call at his Midrand, Johannesburg or Pretoria offices and schedule a thorough consultation. Our patients are our number one priority, and we strive to ensure that each patient leaves our practice with the best results possible.