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Diabetic Retinopathy

The health of the retina is very dependent on a good blood supply to the eye. Diabetes compromises blood circulation and can cause serious damage to the retina (diabetic retinopathy).

Glucose is the main source of energy to the body. It is obtained from foods containing carbohydrates and we produce insulin to metabolise glucose and release it from the blood to body tissues. Diabetes occurs when insulin production is insufficient or fails and glucose levels fluctuate leading to poor circulation. Too much or too little glucose compromises red blood cells making them less able to carry oxygen and nutrients to body tissues. Damage follows as small blood vessels become distorted, blocked or leak into surrounding tissue. New blood vessels can also be formed but these have weak walls and can easily bleed. All these changes are observed in the eye and can lead to serious vision loss.

Early symptoms may not be obvious and the first signs might be seen during an eye examination. Variable blood sugar can cause early fluctuation in vision and in the long term, can cause serious vision loss through damage to the retina. The retina is also the only place where tiny blood vessels can be easily examined. A detailed examination of the retina is part of a full eye test and is an important component of ongoing management of diabetes.

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