Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetes can affect blood vessels, large and small around the body causing a number of problems over time.

Specialists who treat this condition

Mr Nicholas Beare
Mr Michael Briggs
Prof Simon Harding
Prof Ian Pearce

Diabetes can affect blood vessels, large and small around the body causing a number of problems over time. When small blood vessels are affected these include foot ulcers, kidney problems and eye disease. In the eye the small blood vessels in the retina can be affected by diabetes (the retina is the tissue at the back of your eye which picks up the light). This is called diabetic retinopathy, and can affect your vision if not detected early and treated appropriately. The early changes of diabetic retinopathy do not generally affect your vision, but are a sign that diabetic eye disease is starting to develop.
In more advanced diabetic eye disease the retinal blood vessels can become leaky so fluid collects in the retina, or the blood vessels can block off so there is not enough blood getting to the retina. This is more likely the longer you have had diabetes, the poorer your diabetes control (measured by the HbA1c blood test) and if you have high blood pressure that is not well controlled. The degree of diabetic retinopathy reflects the amount of damage present in small blood vessels elsewhere in your body.
If the blood vessels are leaky the retina can become waterlogged which can affect the vision (called diabetic macular oedema). If there is not enough blood getting to the retina then new blood vessels can grow as a result (called proliferative diabetic retinopathy), and these are likely to bleed and cause scarring. However these problems can be quite advanced before they noticeably affect your vision.
It is important for people with diabetes to have an examination of their eyes at least once a year in order to pick up any abnormalities early. If abnormalities are found which require treatment, then prompt treatment can prevent deterioration or restore vision, if it is reversible. This is normally provided as part of the routine NHS screening programme for sight threatening diabetic retinopathy. Our specialists are approved to carry out this screening for you.
The Liverpool Eye Clinic has a lot of experience in diabetic retinopathy care. Our experts are national opinion leaders in the field. We can carefully examine the retina and provide a comprehensive assessment of the diabetic changes if there are any. If there are changes that require treatment, we offer prompt treatment with laser or injectable therapies such as Lucentis or Iluvien.
We can also link to our diabetologist colleagues to provide a “one stop shop” for comprehensive diabetes care thereby saving outpatient follow-up visits.

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