Lichfield Street Opticians in Wolverhampton

Caring for Wolverhampton’s eyes since 1863

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Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes is a medical condition that can interfere with your body’s ability to use and store sugar. Diabetic people often have to take insulin injections to help their bodies to regulate their blood sugar. Diabetes can also slowly cause the blood vessels in your eyes to weaken or to even change how they grow. These blood vessels feed blood to your retina, which coats the inside of your eyes and is covered with millions of light-sensitive receptors that react to the light that your eyes take in. The condition of how these blood vessels are changed by diabetes is called diabetic retinopathy and it can seriously affect your vision. If left untreated, it can cause blindness.diabetic retinopathy fundus view

With diabetes, the weakened blood vessels in the eye can leak blood - leading to wet MD - or can grow too large or otherwise obscure parts of the retina, limiting your vision. Due to the risk of blindness, the diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy early is essential. You should have an eye test at least once every year if you are diabetic or are at risk of diabetes. In fact, all diabetics, people with a family history of diabetes, and those with close relatives who already have the condition already qualify for a free eye test on the NHS as well as free diabetic screening. Diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy  involves checking the inside of your eyes with an ophthalmoscope and with the use of Fundus digital retinal photography - which we include as a standard part of all our eye examinations.

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

There are different symptoms of diabetic retinopathy depending on how advanced the condition is. Early stages may include partial or complete blurry vision that you may notice, although often there are no visual symtpoms at first - the earliest stages are often caught through seeing changes to blood vessels with retinal photography. As the condition progresses you may notice some foggy vision, blind spots or in some cases floaters (which are caused by droplets of blood leaked from weakened or abnormal blood vessels), which appear as small black spots that seem to move about in your field of vision.

In the most advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy, abnormal blood vessel growth may lead to scars forming in the retina which will lose any of their receptors, which in turn will lead to even more blurriness and visual distortion. If left for long enough, this scar tissue may shrink inwards, detaching the retina off the inside wall of your eye, pulling it towards the centre of your eyeball, which will lead to blindness.

diabetic retinopathy vision comparisonTreatment of Diabetic Retinopathy

There are various laser and surgical treatments available once diabetic retinopathy has been diagnosed. If you feel the symptoms and see us to confirm it, or if it is found in one of our eye examinations, we can refer you to the Eye Infirmary to begin treatment via your GP.

As this condition can seriously affect your vision, you may feel that - even after surgery - you might require additional aids to help you to see clearly. For this we can prescribe you specially enhanced vision aids to assist with correcting any extra difficulties you may experience - such as hand magnifiers, clip on magnifiers that attach to your existing glasses, as well as telescopic and microscopic lenses for distance and near vision respectively.


It should be noted that not every person with diabetes will develop retinopathy. But if you are diabetic, the chances of retinopathy occurring can increase with the following factors:

  • You have had diabetes for several years already
  • Pregnancy
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking

If you are either diabetic or are considered to be at risk of diabetes (if you have a family history of the condition or if a close relative has diabetes already) then there are some preventative measures that you can take to reduce the chances of developing diabetic retinopathy:

  • Always take any prescribed medication as per your GP’s advice
  • Maintain a proper diet
  • Take regular exercise
  • Be sure to take an eye test - preferably every year.