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Diabetic Retinopathy is the medical term for one the most common diabetic eye problems. It damages the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive nerve tissue in your eye that sends visual images to your brain.

Therefore the most important messages are:

It is important to take control of your diabetes and blood sugar levels. Please note Vision Express have a regular diabetic clinic at the Rodney Branch to help with checking your blood sugar and advice on your diet.

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, an annual eye examination is very important. With diabetic retinopathy vision once lost cannot be restored but further vision loss can normally be prevented.

The retina in your eye has tiny blood vessels that are easy to damage. Having high blood glucose and high blood pressure for a long time can damage these tiny blood vessels. Diabetic retinopathy affects up to 80 percent of those who have had diabetes for 20 years or more. At least 90% of new cases could be reduced with proper treatment and monitoring of the eyes. The longer a person has diabetes, the higher his or her chances of developing diabetic retinopathy

Any signs of diabetic retinopathy, at a routine eye examination, will be referred to the Vision Express Retinal Ophthalmologist Dr Alejandro Garcia. A careful check of the retina with a fundus camera will then be undertaken, plus a full monitoring of the condition with the very latest Zeiss Cirrus 5000 OCT. An OCT is similar to ultrasound testing but uses light rather than sound to produce images. The scan can also detect diseases of the optic nerve.

You might not be aware of any symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. As the condition progresses, diabetic retinopathy symptoms may include:

Spots or dark strings floating in your vision (floaters)

  • Blurred vision
  • Fluctuating vision
  • Impaired color vision
  • Dark or empty areas in your vision
  • Vision loss

Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes. Over time, too much sugar in your blood can lead to the blockage of the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina, cutting off its blood supply. As a result, the eye attempts to grow new blood vessels. But these new blood vessels don’t develop properly and can leak easily.

Complications…..Diabetic retinopathy involves the abnormal growth of blood vessels in the retina. Complications can lead to serious vision problems:

  • Vitreous hemorrhage. The new blood vessels may bleed into the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the center of your eye. If the amount of bleeding is small, you might see only a few dark spots (floaters). In more-severe cases, blood can fill the vitreous cavity and completely block your vision. Vitreous hemorrhage by itself usually doesn’t cause permanent vision loss. The blood often clears from the eye within a few weeks or months. Unless your retina is damaged, your vision may return to its previous clarity.
  • Retinal detachment. The abnormal blood vessels associated with diabetic retinopathy stimulate the growth of scar tissue, which can pull the retina away from the back of the eye. This may cause spots floating in your vision, flashes of light or severe vision loss.
  • Glaucoma. New blood vessels may grow in the front part of your eye and interfere with the normal flow of fluid out of the eye, causing pressure in the eye to build up (glaucoma). This pressure can damage the nerve that carries images from your eye to your brain (optic nerve).
  • Blindness. Eventually, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma or both can lead to complete vision loss.

Advanced Treatment

Vision Express under the very experienced use by Dr Garcia, the Retinal Surgeon on the Vision Express team, can treat advanced Diabetic Retinopathy with the Iridex IQ 577.

This is the top of the line latest laser equipment for treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy. The Iridex IQ577 is a yellow light laser.

This new laser option requires less power and shorter pulse durations to treat the retinal bleeding. This not only improves the comfort level but also can be used more frequently to repair damage, than the older laser equipment. The Iridex IQ577 is only used at Vision Express Surgery Centre at Karlione Court , Rodney Bay. This advanced yellow laser is not available anywhere else in St Lucia.

Patients with diabetes who successfully manage their blood sugar levels will help to prevent the onset of a severe form of Diabetic Retinopathy . This means :

  • eating a healthy and balanced diet
  • regularly exercising
  • maintaining a healthy body weight
  • smoking cessation
  • strictly controlling alcohol intake
  • taking any antihypertensive measures according to their doctor’s instruction
  • having regular eye examinations to check monitor any problems early.
  • early detection of symptoms increases the effectiveness of the treatment.


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