Early detection – what is the first sign of diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetes Awareness Week takes place in June, so it’s fitting to explore the impact diabetes can have on your vision. Let’s take a look at what diabetic retinopathy is, answer the all-important question we often get asked by patients, ‘what is the first sign of diabetic retinopathy?’, go over how it’s diagnosed and how it can be prevented.

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes. It occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. It’s a serious eye condition that can lead to permanent vision loss if left untreated.

What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?

symptoms of diabetic retinopathy

The symptoms of diabetic retinopathy usually develop slowly, and you might not notice them at first. However, as the condition worsens, the symptoms become more obvious.
The first sign is usually blurred vision. Other symptoms include:

  • Fluctuating vision
  • Dark or empty areas in your vision
  • Difficulty perceiving colours (they can appear faded)
  • Floaters (dark spots that float over your field of vision)
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Double vision

Detecting diabetic retinopathy

Detecting diabetic retinopathy

Our optician can diagnose diabetic retinopathy during an eye examination. We offer an optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan, a gold-standard assessment for capturing diabetic retinopathy images.

The OCT scan is a non-invasive test that captures detailed cross-sectional 3D images of the back of the eye. It can measure the thickness of your retina so your optician can tell if there’s any swelling and pinpoint the exact locations of even the smallest changes in your tissue structures.

During the scan, you’ll place your head on a chin rest for just a few minutes, looking into a camera while the scan takes place. It’s completely painless, and the machine doesn’t touch your eye at any point.

The results are instant, allowing us to analyse and discuss them with you straight away. They can then be stored in your patient record so we can compare them to your latest results the next time you come in for an OCT scan and track changes over time.

Preventing diabetic retinopathy

Preventing diabetic retinopathy

If you’ve got diabetes, you can minimise your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by keeping a close eye on your blood sugar levels, eating well, taking regular exercise and not smoking – which all contribute to a healthy lifestyle in general.

Attending your routine diabetic eye screening will also make sure any early symptoms are detected quickly, allowing any treatment and lifestyle changes to have the biggest chance of success.

If you are diabetic and it’s been a while since you’ve had an eye exam, book an appointment at McGovern Opticians in Strabane or Enniskillen today.