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Diabetic Retinopathy - What is it?
July 05, 2018

Diabetic Retinopathy - What is it?

At Urquharts, several of our Optometrists are specialised and fully qualified in the detection and diagnosis of Diabetic Retinopathy. This service is provided from our practice in Kilmarnock.

Unlike other Health Boards in Scotland, NHS Ayrshire & Arran have an agreement with specialist Optometrists such as Urquharts, where we provide the screening on their behalf. The benefit being, we can provide the screening and eye examination in one location. Other health boards provide a mobile service where a digital photo is taken by someone other than an Optometrist and then these are assessed independently.

Urquharts were one of the founding practices of this programme in the mid 2000’s.

Did you know that there are 24,500 diabetics in Ayrshire, roughly 6.4% of the population!

Did you know that these numbers increase by approximately 3-5% each year, in part due to advanced techniques in diagnosis and also due to lifestyle.

So what is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetes complication that affects eyes. It's caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, the retina.

At first, diabetic retinopathy may cause no symptoms or only mild vision problems. Eventually, it can cause blindness.
The condition can develop in anyone who has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to develop this eye complication.

How do we check for it?

Our Optometrists take a digital image of the eye and then review it and grade it. As part of the Diabetic Retinopathy Screening programme in Ayrshire, this grading is checked by a consultant and the patient is sent a letter with the results. Patients are recalled annually for their screening. Our Optometrists need to go through training annually to maintain their accreditations in this field.

What causes Diabetic Retinopathy?

Risk factors include:

  • Duration of Diabetes – after 10 years, 50% of patients show signs of retinopathy & after 30 years, 90% show signs of retinopathy, even with good control.
  • Poor metabolic control
  • Pregnancy – we see diabetic type 1’s at every trimester
  • Hypertension
  • Nephropathy (renal issues)
  • Lifestyle – smoking & poor diet

What does Diabetic Retinopathy look like?

If you have other questions about Diabetic Retinopathy, please contact us and we will be delighted to answer them.

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