Thirty years ago, the chance of going blind within five years of being diagnosed with severe diabetic retinopathy was no better than 50%. Today, early detection, diagnosis, management and treatment of diabetic retinopathy gives a highly likely chance of saving sight.
The early (non-proliferative) stages of diabetic retinopathy usually have no symptoms and progressive damage occurs before any change to vision. However once the disease reaches the proliferative stage, vision loss can occur rapidly and can be permanent. This makes it essential for all those living with diabetes to have a comprehensive dilated eye examination at least every two years, or more often if recommended, and to follow professional advice to reduce the risks of diabetic retinopathy.
Once diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, it is important to have your eyes checked at least every 12 months, and possibly as often as 3-monthly, depending on the level of disease.
Regardless of whether or not a diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy has been made, it is important to visit an ophthalmologist or an optometrist as soon as possible if there are any sudden changes in vision.
The following symptoms may not necessarily be signs of diabetic retinopathy, but should always be checked:
- Dark spots or holes in the visual field
- Blurred, distorted, dim or double vision
- Difficulty seeing at night, or increased sensitivity to lights and glare
- Frequent changes in glasses prescription
- Bright haloes around lights
- Flashes and large “floaters” (floaters are specks in the form of dots, circles, lines or cobwebs that move across the field of vision. These will be most noticeable when looking at a white wall or clear sky).
The longer you have had diabetes, the higher the chance that you will get retinopathy. Even if your eye test results have always been clear, do not stop having regular eye checks. Read here about the tests an eye health professional may do to detect diabetic retinopathy.