Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes. It occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the cells at the back of the eye (known as the retina). If it isn't treated, it can cause blindness.
All people with diabetes are at risk of getting diabetic retinopathy, but good control of blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure minimises this risk.
What causes retinopathy?
To see, light must be able to pass from the front of the eye through to the retina, being focused by the lens. The retina is the light-sensitive layer of cells at the back of the eye – the ‘seeing’ part of the eye. It converts the light into electrical signals. These signals are sent to your brain through the optic nerve and your brain interprets them to produce the images that you see.
A delicate network of blood vessels supplies the retina with blood. When those blood vessels become blocked, leaky or grow haphazardly, the retina becomes damaged and is unable to work properly. Retinopathy is damage to the retina.
Preventing diabetic retinopathy
To reduce your risk of developing retinopathy, it's important to control your blood sugar level, blood pressure and cholesterol level. Good control will prevent diabetic complications in almost everyone.
Other steps that you can take to help prevent retinopathy include:
- attending your annual screening appointment
- informing your GP if you notice any changes to your vision (do not wait until your next screening appointment)
- taking your medication as prescribed
- controlling your weight and eating a healthy, balanced diet
- exercising regularly
- giving up smoking
- controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol levels
At Urquhart Opticians, we are one of the providers of Diabetic Retinopathy Screening on behalf of NHS Ayrshire and Arran. Our trained Optometrists take time to assess the health of your eyes, ensuring any signs of retinopathy are detected at the earliest opportunity.
For more information on Diabetes, please visit www.diabetes.org.uk