Diabetes can cause the tiny blood vessels in the retina to swell and leak blood or fluid around the retina. As they heal, scar tissue forms and can damage the retina so its function is less effective and consequently, vision is impaired. This disease process is known as Diabetic Retinopathy.
There are two types of Diabetic Retinopathy:
- Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NDPR):
This is the early stage of diabetic retinopathy. In this stage, the tiny blood vessels within the retina leak. The retina may have “dot and blot haemorrhages”, “microaneurysms” and/or “exudates”.
- Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR):
This is an advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy. There can be a widespread closure of the retinal blood vessels, which prevents adequate blood flow. The retina responds by growing abnormal blood vessels, a process called neovascularisation, in an attempt to re-establish adequate blood supply. However, these abnormal blood vessels are very fragile and often leak blood or fluid into the retina, resulting in severe vision loss.
Macular oedema, macula ischaemia, vitreous haemorrhage and neovascular glaucoma are all possible conditions that can arise from diabetic retinopathy.
All people with diabetes- both type 1 and type 2 are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. This is why all diabetic patients should have yearly detailed eye examinations with an ophthalmologist.