Diabetes is the most common cause of blindness in individuals between the ages of 20 and 65 years. Why does diabetes cause blindness? This is due to diabetes affecting the blood vessels of the retina (membrane at the back of the eye, responsible for vision), as well as causing swelling of the macula.

The visual loss caused by diabetes, known as diabetic retinopathy, is preventable with early treatment, and therefore it is essential that all diabetics have regular examinations of their eyes. The risk factors for developing diabetic eye problems are multifactorial and very important, since the patient can modify his risk for developing diabetic eye complications. Duration and control of diabetes is the most important, but also pregnancy, uncontrolled high blood pressure, kidney disease, smoking, overweight and high blood cholesterol play a role. All diabetics need to have their eyes examined yearly, and more often in the presence of diabetic retinopathy, the frequency depending on the severity of the diabetic retinopathy.

The most important consideration for the patient is optimal control of his or her blood glucose levels. Diabetics are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, caused by blood vessel abnormalities leading to the closing and leaking of blood vessels. The end result is abnormal blood vessels with subsequent leakage, bleeding, scar formation and retinal detachment. Most important however, is that all these complications can be avoided with timely intervention. Therefore routine eye examinations are suggested.

Diabetic macular oedema is a swelling of the macular area responsible for central fine vision, thereby causing a central hazy area in the patients’ vision as well as metamorphopsia (straight lines appearing wavy or bent). Urgent treatment is necessary in order to prevent permanent visual deterioration. The visual prognosis has been greatly improved with the use of intravitreal injections. Anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) and steroid medication provide excellent results to restore vision. These injections are administered in the rooms in order to curb cost, in comparison to hospital theater treatments.