Diabetes is a
disease that occurs when the pancreas does not
secrete enough insulin or the body is unable
to process it properly.
Insulin is the hormone that regulates
the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood.
Diabetes can affect children and
diabetes affect the retina?
diabetes are more likely to develop eye
problems such as cataracts
the diseaseís affect on the retina
is the main threat to vision.
Most patients develop diabetic changes
in the retina after approximately 20 years.
The effect of diabetes on the eye is
called diabetic retinopathy.
diabetes affects the circulatory system of the
earliest phase of the disease is known as
background diabetic retinopathy.
In this phase, the arteries in the
retina become weakened and leak, forming
small, dot-like hemorrhages.
These leaking vessels often lead to
swelling or edema in the retina and decreased
stage is known as proliferative diabetic
In this stage, circulation problems
cause areas of the retina to become
oxygen-deprived or ischemic.
New, fragile, vessels develop as the
circulatory system attempts to maintain
adequate oxygen levels within the retina.
This is called neovascularization.
Unfortunately, these delicate vessels
Blood may leak into the retina and vitreous,
causing spots or floaters,
along with decreased vision.
In the later
phases of the disease, continued abnormal
vessel growth and scar tissue may cause
serious problems such as retinal
detachment and glaucoma.
by Mark Erickson
Signs and Symptoms
affect of diabetic retinopathy on vision
varies widely, depending on the stage of the
Some common symptoms of diabetic
retinopathy are listed below, however,
diabetes may cause other eye symptoms.
Detection and Diagnosis
patients require routine eye examinations so
related eye problems can be detected and
treated as early as possible.
Most diabetic patients are frequently
examined by an internist or endocrinologist
who in turn work closely with the
diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy is made
following a detailed examination of the retina
with an ophthalmoscope.
Most patients with diabetic retinopathy
are referred to vitreo-retinal surgeons who
specialize in treating this disease.
retinopathy is treated in many ways depending
on the stage of the disease and the specific
problem that requires attention.
The retinal surgeon relies on several
tests to monitor the progression of the
disease and to make decisions for the
photography, and ultrasound imaging of the
growth of tiny blood vessels and the
associated complication of bleeding is one of
the most common problems treated by vitreo-retinal
Laser surgery called pan retinal
photocoagulation (PRP) is usually the
treatment of choice for this problem.
surgeon uses laser to destroy oxygen-deprived
retinal tissue outside of the patientís
While this creates blind spots in the
peripheral vision, PRP prevents the continued
growth of the fragile vessels and seals the
The goal of the treatment is to arrest
the progression of the disease.
is another surgery commonly needed for
diabetic patients who suffer a vitreous
hemorrhage (bleeding in the gel-like substance
that fills the center of the eye).
During a vitrectomy, the retina surgeon
carefully removes blood and vitreous from the
eye, and replaces it with clear salt solution
At the same time, the surgeon may also
gently cut strands of vitreous attached to the
retina that create traction and could lead to
retinal detachment or tears.
diabetes are at greater risk of developing
retinal tears and detachment.
Tears are often sealed with laser
Retinal detachment requires surgical
treatment to reattach the retina to the back
of the eye.
The prognosis for visual recovery is
dependent on the severity of the detachment.
have found that diabetic patients who are able
to maintain appropriate blood sugar levels
have fewer eye problems than those with poor
Diet and exercise play important roles
in the overall health of those with diabetes.
also greatly reduce the possibilities of eye
complications by scheduling routine
examinations with an ophthalmologist.
Many problems can be treated with much
greater success when caught early.
our Retinal Specialists
about Diabetes Control
Luke's Cataract & Laser Institute
provides this on-line information for
educational and communication purposes only
and it should not be construed as personal
medical advice. Information published on
this St. Luke's website is not intended to
replace, supplant, or augment a consultation
with an eye care professional regarding the
viewer/user's own medical care. St.
Luke's disclaims any and all liability for
injury or other damages that could result from
use of the information obtained from this