Diabetic Retinopathy / Macular Oedema
Diabetic Retinopathy is a potentially blinding complication of diabetes that damages the retina. The retina is a thin membrane located in the inside of the eye, adhered to the wall of the eye like “wallpaper” and that acts like the film of a camera capturing the image that will be transmitted to the brain through the optic nerve. The macula is the central area of the retina. We use the macula to see details, colours, read small print and discriminate faces amongst others. Diabetic Retinopathy can affect half of all patients diagnosed with diabetes.
Diabetic Retinopathy occurs when Diabetes Mellitus damages the blood vessels in the retina impairing its oxygenation and nutrition.
Some patients with Diabetic Retinopathy develop a condition called Macular Oedema which occurs when the damaged blood vessels leak fluid onto the macula. The leaked fluid makes the macula swell and this in turn blurs the central vision.
As the Diabetic Retinopathy progresses, it enters its advanced or proliferative stage where new and abnormal blood vessels grow along the retina and use the gel-like vitreous that fills the inside of the eye as scaffolding.
There are two different types of Diabetic Retinopathy:
Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR) and Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR)
Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR)
Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the early stage of diabetic retinopathy. In this stage, tiny blood vessels in the retina outside the macula leak blood and fluid.
People with non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy may experience no visual symptoms. However, those who do experience problems are those who develop Macular Oedema or Macular Ischaemia.
Macular Ischaemia occurs when small blood vessels that nourish the macula close off leading to cell death with irreversible blur or loss of central vision.