Envision Optical
Optometrist in QLD and NSW

Diabetic Eye Disease: Detection and Treatment

July 8, 2014
Posted By: Envision Optical

How is Diabetic Eye disease detected?

Today I will discuss the detection and common treatments for diabetic eye disease. Apart from some of the vision symptoms, which I listed in last weeks post, diabetic retinopathy is usually asymptomatic and will only be detected by a thorough eye examination. We carefully examine the retina through dilated pupils to check for any blood vessel changes and areas of bleeding or fluid accumulation. This should be done at least annually. The retinal condition is documented by digital photography and the macula area scanned for swelling by OCT retinal and macular scans.


If any changes are detected close to the central vision area or any fluid swelling is detected at the macula, referral to a retinal specialist will be recommended. For a definitive diagnosis, you may need to undergo a test called fluorescein angiography. In this test, illuminated dye is injected into the body through your veins. As your blood flows, the dye gradually appears in the retina. Your ophthalmologist will photograph the retina and evaluate its appearance with the help of the illuminated dye. This analysis helps determine if the disease is present and how far it has progressed.

If the retinopathy is more serious, then treatment options including laser therapy and injections may be recommended by the specialist. They will also work closely with your GP and diabetic team to ensure your control is maximized. If you want to avoid diabetic retinopathy or control its progress, try these tips:

  • Keep blood sugar within normal limits.
  • Monitor blood pressure and keep it under good control.
  • Maintain a healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter.

Most laser and non-laser treatments for diabetic eye disease depend on the severity of the eye changes and type of vision problems you have. The two types of laser treatments commonly used to treat significant diabetic eye disease are:

1)   Focal or grid laser photocoagulation: This type of laser energy is aimed directly at the affected area or applied in a contained, grid-like pattern to destroy damaged eye tissue and clear away scars that contribute to blind spots and vision loss. This method of laser treatment generally targets specific, individual blood vessels

2)   Panretinal laser photocoagulation: With this method, about 1,200 to 1,800 tiny spots of laser energy are applied to the periphery of the retina, leaving the central area untouched. The aim is to prevent further tissue damage by killing off already terminally damaged tissue.

Non-Laser Treatment of Diabetic Macular Oedema

Injection of steroids into the eye often is recommended over laser procedures for the treatment of diabetic macula oedema. Or, in some cases, a combination of steroid injections and laser treatment may be recommended.

The latest treatments that are showing promise for the control of diabetic eye disease involve the use of anti-VEGF drugs. These medicines, which are injected into the eye, also are used to treat advanced macular degeneration.

In summary, the very best thing you can do if you are diabetic is to watch your diet, exercise, control your blood sugar levels and have regular check ups. Then hopefully you won’t need to worry about any of this!