Diabetic Eye disease2020-02-19T13:57:21+00:00

What you need to know about diabetic eye disease

Learn more about diabetic eye disease and your treatment options
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Diabetic eye disease explained

In these toggles we explain what you need to know about diabetic eye disease

People with diabetes are prone to developing eye problems.

Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye problems that can affect people with diabetes. These conditions include:

  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Diabetic macular edema
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma

The two main ways that diabetes damages vision is cataracts and retinal damage (retinopathy).

Cataracts

The lens of the eye is just behind the pupil. It focuses the light on the back of the eye where the brain can “see” it. Usually, it should be crystal clear, but if you have diabetes, it often starts to get cloudy. This causes the vision to become hazy, and over time, it gets worse and worse.

Once the patient becomes aware that their vision is worsening it is usually better to have the old lens removed and replaced with a new artificial one. This is a cataract operation. See our cataract booklet for further details.

Retinopathy

At the back of your eye is the retina. It acts like the film in a camera. The ‘image’ that you are looking at is focused on the retina and converted into millions of electrical impulses. These impulses are then sent to the brain where the picture is “seen”. If the retina and all the other parts of the visual system are healthy, then that person will have good vision. If any part of the system is unhealthy, then the vision will be affected.

In the retinopathy of diabetes, the small blood vessels in the retina leak fluid. The fluid which leaks out damages the vision. In other cases, abnormal blood vessels grow on the retina. These sometimes bleed and can fill the eye with blood. This blood can cause scarring and is one of the ways that can make a patient blind. Diabetes is a very common cause of blindness. There are things you can do to reduce the risk of losing vision through diabetes.

Often there are no early symptoms of diabetic eye disease. However, when symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Blurry or wavy vision
  • Frequently changing vision
  • Dark patches or vision loss
  • Poor colour vision
  • Flashes and floaters

Your blood sugar level

The better you control your blood sugar, the less likely you are to develop severe problems. This is particularly true at the beginning of your diabetic career. As a person with diabetes, you should know what your blood sugar level should be and what it is. If it is high, then it will possibly be damaging your vision. If you are not managing it, you need to know how to get it under control.

If your sugar level is consistently out of control, this will be reflected in a chemical in your red blood cells called glycosylated haemoglobin. We can measure this and tell how well your control has been over the last few months. If the test shows that your control has been poor, then we can discuss what to do about improving control.

Your blood pressure level

High blood pressure dramatically accelerates the rate at which diabetes attacks vision. You need to be sure that your blood pressure is not high. You should know what your blood pressure is and what it should be, even if it is not high and you are not on treatment for it.

If you have diabetes and have high blood pressure, you must make sure both conditions are under the best control possible. If either or both get out of control, your vision will be under constant threat.

Cholesterol and smoking

There is evidence that high cholesterol levels in patients with diabetes can increase the risk of damage to the retina. You should know what your cholesterol level and lower it if it is high.

Also, diabetic patients who smoke have a higher incidence of complications.

To diagnose diabetic eye disease, we can perform a thorough health check to ensure that your diabetes is being managed properly and detect any signs of problems.

A diabetic eye screening enables us to take photos of the back of the eye. Depending on the findings, we may advise more regular monitoring, further tests, or  treatment.

The first step to treat diabetic eye disease, is to manage your diabetes properly. This includes monitoring your blood sugar level, blood pressure, and cholesterol and making changes to your lifestyle.

We can treat more advanced eye problems such as cataracts and retinopathy with one or a combination of medicine, laser treatments and surgery.

Modern diabetes care is a partnership between you, the patient and the health care team looking after you. Both partners have a role to play.

My-iClinic is financially accessible to anyone who wants the best available treatment

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Mr Bolger suggested having cataract surgery on both eyes on the same day and whilst I had concerns, I decided to go ahead. The day after I was able to remove the eye pads and I had perfect vision. I have told many people that it was the best thing I have ever spent my money on. I have needed spectacles or contact lenses since I was 9 years old and now have 20/20 vision with no assistance from spectacles. I would highly recommend the My-iClinic.

Mrs Penelope Carrozza

Double cataract removal in September 2018. The total experience from initial consultation to operation was most efficient. The result so far has been exactly as described in the brochure, I’ve never seen so well. I had glasses from just over 1 year old till now, (80+), what a difference!

Michael Turvey

Just discharged after having monovision cataract surgery in both eyes I am delighted with the outcome. I can see both near and far and have been able to dispense with my contact lenses and glasses. I have been well looked after from my first contact. Mr Bolger was very professional and reassuring and I felt at all times that I was in good hands. I cannot fault the whole experience including the charges, which having researched various alternatives, proved to be very reasonable.

Anne Collins

I had high confidence in the team working at My-iClinic due to their attentive and thorough end-to-end service, from the reception desk to the operation theatre. I have recommended the practice already to multiple friends, family members and colleagues. (And my eyesight is better than I even hoped for!)

Ames Ward

Absolutely fantastic. I was very nervous having my laser treatment for narrow angle glaucoma. The Consultant was wonderful, caring and very understanding. She talked me through the procedure and was extremely patient. Definitely recommend My-iClinic.

Maeve

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About the experts

Meet the My-iClinic founders, Mr John Bolger and Ms Bola Odufuwa. Two consultant eye surgeons who made it their life goal to make your life better.

Bola Odufuwa

Consultant Ophthalmologist
Clinic Director
MBBS DO FRCS (Ed) FRCOphth MSc

Bola Odufuwa is a consultant ophthalmologist at The Royal Free Hospital and My-iClinic. Her specialities include cataract, glaucoma, paediatric, and laser refractive surgery. Bola has had extensive training at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, where she gained expertise in the management of various eye conditions.

Bola Odufuwa’s special interests include optimal refractive outcomes following cataract surgery, non-penetrating glaucoma surgery, and assessment eyesight in children with special needs: particularly dyslexia and autism.

Mr John Bolger

Consultant Ophthalmologist
Clinic Director
FRCS DO FEBOS -CR

John Bolger is a Consultant Ophthalmologist and Clinic Director at My-iClinic. His specialities include ophthalmology, laser refractive surgery (SMILE, Presbyond, LASIK, PRK, PTK), refractive lens exchange (RLE), cataract surgery, glaucoma treatment and macular degeneration.

Over the course of his career, John Bolger has carried out over 35,000 cataract operations, 20 of which were for eye surgeons. He has also taught over 1500 young ophthalmologists worldwide as they begin their surgical careers.