Complications of diabetic retinopathy
What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease in people with diabetes. High blood sugar levels cause damage to the vessels in the retina. Abnormal blood vessels swell, leak, and stop passing blood. To compensate impaired circulation of blood in the eye, new vessels, which should not be there, may start growing. These may lead to bleed in the eye, retinal detachment and eventually loss of vision.
What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?
You may not have symptoms of diabetic retinopathy until more advanced changes.
Diabetic retinopathy has two main stages:
Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR): At this early stage, retinal vessels swell, leak and may close off. The main symptom of NPDR is blurry vision.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR): At this advanced stage, abnormal new vessels grow on the retina. These vessels use the vitreous gel as the scaffold. As the vitreous moves and shrinks, it may pull on these vessels and lead to bleed inside the eye and/or retinal detachment and loss of vision. The main symptoms of PDR are floaters and/or loss of vision.
When is surgery the treatment for diabetic retinopathy?
If you have NPDR, your ophthalmologist may recommend laser treatment and/or injections in the eye.
If you have advanced Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy, you may require surgery called vitrectomy.
Vitrectomy involves removing the vitreous gel, new abnormal vessels, scar tissues from the retinal surface and tractions. It aims to prevent future bleeds and retinal detachment. The surgery takes c. 1-2 hours and is done either under local or general anaesthetic. An injection is done in the eye a week before the surgery to reduce the risks of complications and bleed. The risks of surgery include loss of vision (rare), retinal detachment, cataract and the need for further surgery.