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Focus on Sight: Diabetic Retinopathy

Newsdate: 15 June 2011

When diabetes affects the small blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye, this is known as diabetic retinopathy.  Untreated diabetic retinopathy can affect sight and is the most common cause of blindness in the working population.  All people with diabetes are at risk of diabetic retinopathy.  This is true whether the diabetes is controlled by tablets, diet or insulin.  The risk is greater if you have had diabetes for a long time, the diabetes is poorly controlled, you are on insulin, or you have high blood pressure. A man having a diabetic retinopothy test

Vision tests with a patient Diabetic Retinopathy does not usually cause sight loss until it has reached an advanced stage.  Even sight-threatening retinopathy that is close to affecting your sight may not cause symptoms.

For these reasons the Department of Health has set up a national screening programme for Diabetic retinopathy.  Everybody with diabetes type 12 and over will be offered photographic screening every year. 
Judith Gray, Head Orthoptist at WWL gives advice about screening: “When you go for your screening appointment you will be asked to read the eye chart and your level of vision will be recorded.  You will then have eye drops to make the pupils large.  A photograph of your retina (back of the eye) will be taken.  The camera does not touch the eye and the screening photograph does not hurt. After the screening photograph you will be written to with the results. Screening will detect whether you need to be followed up or treated in an eye clinic for diabetic retinopathy.  Laser treatment for retinopathy is very effective at reducing loss of sight from diabetic retinopathy.”