Diabetes is a chronic health condition characterised by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream. It manifests as two main types:
Type 1 Diabetes: This results from the body's inability to produce insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.
Type 2 Diabetes: Arises from the body's ineffective use of insulin and is influenced by factors like poor diet, inactivity, genetics, and obesity.
In 2021, over 1.3 million Australians were living with diabetes, affecting 1 in every 20 individuals across the nation1. This statistic highlights the significance of diabetes as a growing health concern in Australia.
In diabetes, the body struggles to regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels effectively. Elevated blood sugar levels cause damage to the blood vessels throughout the body, including those in the retina at the back of the eye. The weakened blood vessels become leaky, allowing fluid, proteins, and blood to escape into the surrounding retinal tissue. This is known as diabetic retinopathy.
This leakage can also lead to swelling at the macula called macular oedema, which can affect your eyesight. In severe cases, it triggers the growth of new abnormal blood vessels that are weak and prone to bleeding. This ultimately results in scar tissue and vision loss.
Diabetic retinopathy is a sight-threatening complication of diabetes and can progress without noticeable symptoms in its early stages. As the condition progresses, various symptoms may become apparent, such as blurred vision or loss of vision, increasing floaters, visual distortions and changes in colour vision.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it's essential to undergo diabetic retinopathy testing annually. Poorly managed blood sugar levels and the duration of diabetes also contribute to the increased risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy testing goes beyond a routine eye check, it focuses on the health of the retina at the back of the eye. These tests are crucial for early detection and intervention, especially when symptoms are not apparent. The examination includes:
Vision Check: A visual acuity test is conducted to assess your overall vision. This typically involves reading letters on an eye chart to determine how well you can see.
Pupil Dilation: Eye drops are used to dilate the pupils, allowing a detailed and unobstructed view of the retina.
Retinal Examination: Specialised equipment is used to examine the entire retina for signs of diabetic retinopathy, including leaking blood vessels, abnormal blood vessel growth, and retinal swelling.
Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT): This advanced imaging technology provides cross-sectional retinal images, aiding in the assessment of complications like macular edema, retinal thickening, and leaking blood vessels, as well as quantifying retinal thickness for disease monitoring and treatment guidance.
After the diabetic retinopathy test, findings are discussed, and guidance on managing diabetes is provided, including referrals for treatment if necessary.
For individuals with diabetes, annual dilated eye exams are vital for identifying diabetic retinopathy in its treatable early stages, preventing severe vision loss. Prioritise your vision by scheduling your diabetic eye test at Theia Optical today.
1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Diabetes. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.