What is diabetic retinopathy?

What is diabetic retinopathy? Diabetic retinopathy is a problem that is very common in Bermuda. Diabetes can affect different parts of the eye. It can cause, for example, cataracts and glaucoma, and in the retina, it can cause specific conditions which threaten the vision. Broadly speaking there are two types of diabetic retinopathy.

Background diabetic retinopathy

There’s what we call the background type retinopathy which in some respects is a milder form, and this mainly manifests as leaking or bleeding in small areas in the retina. When it progresses, it can cause what we call macular oedema which is a severe condition and is the primary cause of visual distortion and blurring in background retinopathy. This involves fluid collecting in the macula, which is the central part of the retina and is mainly concerned with letting us see clearly. When it gets waterlogged, the vision becomes very blurred.

Proliferative retinopathy

The other type is called proliferative retinopathy. In proliferative retinopathy, the retina gets denied blood for some time; the body forms new vessels to try and supply the areas that lack blood. Because these new vessels form very quickly and are not very strong, they bleed even more.

The critical thing about retinopathy is that much of it is preventable by ensuring that you control your blood sugars adequately. In the first several years of diabetes, most patients wouldn’t have any significant retinopathy. But as time passes by, if there isn’t adequate control these problems arise.

The key thing for patients with diabetes is to ensure that they keep their blood sugars in check with proper exercise and diet and to keep the treatment schedules prescribed for them carefully.


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About the author

Leonard Teye-Botchway
Consultant Ophthalmic Physician and Surgeon |MBChB, FRCS(G), MBA, FWACS, FGCS, DCEH (Lond), Postgraduate Diploma in Cataracts and Refractive Surgery

I am Leonard Teye-Botchway and I am the Medical Director and Consultant Ophthalmologist at Bermuda International Institute of Ophthalmology in Bermuda. The joy and elation I get from seeing patients who are very happy they can see after surgery is almost unimaginable. This is what really drives me to carry on being an ophthalmologist.

We have sourced some or all of the content on this page from The American Academy of Ophthalmology, with permission.