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diabetic retinopathy

16/06/2021

Did you know that 10% of Type 2 Diabetes patients in UAE do not know that they have the disease?

Diabetes mellitus is a systemic metabolic disorder that causes vascular complications in various organs of the body. In the eye, it may affect the retina which is a nerve tissue lining the back of the eye causing diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes that results from progressive damage to the retinal blood vessels. These vascular changes can progressively damage the retina and cause significant visual loss that could lead to blindness if left untreated.

There are many factors that could accelerate the development of diabetic retinopathy, most importantly the duration of diabetes, high blood glucose levels and increased blood pressure.

Therefore, our first recommendation for a patient with diabetic retinopathy is to be very disciplined taking care of his general condition, diet and weight and to follow the guidelines set by his endocrinologist.

A patient with early diabetic retinopathy usually has no warning signs of the disease but visual loss could occur in later stages. It can be progressive and slow caused by the accumulation of fluid in the central retina (macula) causing what we refer to as Diabetic Macular Edema.  At times, visual loss could be sudden following an acute intraocular hemorrhage with an alarming appearance of spots that can partially or completely obscure vision. However, visual symptoms could be absent even in cases with advanced diabetic retinopathy.

Early detection and timely treatment ostensibly improve the visual prognosis of the disease and can prevent its progression to blindness. For this matter, we perform retinal evaluations periodically and if needed, some imaging studies that help evaluate and monitor the disease such as Fluorescein Angiography, OCT, OCT-Angiography and Ocular ultrasound.

In early stages, patients with diabetic retinopathy only need to have regular eye check-ups. In cases that present with diabetic macular edema with visual loss, intraocular injection of medications is currently the mainstay of treatment, some selective cases might benefit from laser treatment.

Patients with ischemic areas of the retina (areas without blood irrigation) may be treated with laser to prevent progression of retinopathy to more severe forms.

In advanced cases, with intraocular hemorrhage and / or retinal detachment, it may be necessary to resort to intraocular microsurgery techniques (vitrectomy), which we usually perform under local anesthesia.

 

Dr. Wissam Charaffedin

Specialist in Ophthalmology

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