Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes is caused when the body doesn’t process sugar correctly. It either doesn’t produce, or it doesn’t process, the hormone insulin properly, leaving sugar in the blood. High blood sugar affects many parts of the body, including the eyes.  The blood becomes more “sticky” and blood vessels weaken.

Read More >

The first signs of this damage are often visible in the retina. Weakened vessels appear to develop swellings, known as micro-aneurysms, which are seen as tiny red dots on or touching blood vessels. Blood leaks through weakened vessel walls into the retina, creating haemorrhages, visible as red dots or spots near the blood vessels. Other fluids also leak out of the blood vessels. These are seen as yellow spots in the retina.

If a significant number of blood vessels in the retina become damaged it can lead to small blockages in the vessels meaning the blood supply (and therefore oxygen) doesn’t get to the retina to keep it healthy. This triggers changes causing proliferative diabetic retinopathy. The body releases a growth hormone known as Vascular Endothelial Cell Growth Factor (VEGF) which stimulates the retina to attempt to grow new blood vessels to resolve the problem. However, the new blood vessels grow haphazardly and are prone to bursting or leaking causing a sudden bleed in the eye and vision loss.

Why it matters

More people than ever suffer with diabetes, with the risk increasing with age and obesity, and the numbers are growing. People with diabetes may experience blurred vision and visual field loss and, if the diabetes is not controlled, become blind. Good control of diabetes and specialist treatments for the eye can prevent this happening. The signs of diabetic retinopathy precede severe symptoms (such as blindness) and so with regular monitoring it is possible to know when to intervene or when someone is safe and needs no change to their treatment. Advanced retinopathy is also a sign that there is likely to be serious damage elsewhere, such as in the kidneys or nerves.

More resources for health professionals:

http://www.iapb.org/vision-2020/what-is-avoidable-blindness/diabetic-retinopathy
http://www.cehjournal.org/the-diabetes-epidemic-and-its-implications-for-eye-health/

Other resources and support:

http://www.idf.org/

Age Related Macular Degeneration

The macula is the most sensitive part of the retina that gives detailed central vision. It has the highest concentration of photoreceptors, mostly ‘cones’, responsible for seeing fine detail and colour. As we age, so does our retina and this can lead to the macula breaking down or “degenerating”.

Read More >

Age related macular degeneration (ARMD or AMD) usually affects people over 60 years old and is painless. The first symptoms can be when straight lines (such as door frames) appear distorted or bent, colours can look faded and reading and seeing people’s faces becomes difficult.

There are two types of AMD: ‘dry’ and ‘wet’. In ‘Dry Macular Degeneration’, yellow deposits, called ‘drusen’, build up deep in the retina (beneath a layer know as the retinal pigment epithelium). Drusen can be seen when looking inside the eye. In more advanced degeneration large areas of retina can thin or disappear (atrophy) leaving a large blind spot and a visible window through the layers of the retina when examining the eye. Dry AMD develops over a long period, often years.

Occasionally abnormal blood vessels grow into the macula and leak blood or fluid which leads to scarring of the macula and rapid loss of central vision. We call this “Wet Macular Degeneration”. Untreated, this leads to severe loss of central vision.

Why it matters

Macular degeneration is the third leading cause of blindness worldwide and is more common in older people. Wet AMD can develop very suddenly but it can be treated or the effects slowed if caught quickly. Therefore fast referral to a hospital specialist is essential. Immediate treatment for the affected eye can be supported by specialist prescribed vitamin supplements to help reduce the chance of the other eye being affected. Although Dry AMD is not yet treatable it is important to monitor the unaffected eye.

AMD can affect people’s lives dramatically, leading to problems getting out of the house, reduced independence, trouble reading and seeing family members’ faces. When AMD cannot be treated rehabilitation, low vision devices and support are crucial.

More resources for health professionals:

http://www.iapb.org/vision-2020/what-is-avoidable-blindness/age-related
http://www.cehjournal.org/article/age-related-macular-degeneration/

Other resources and support:

https://www.macularsociety.org/age-related-macular-degeneration

Retinitis Pigmentosa

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a group of rare inherited genetic disorders affecting 1 in 3-4,000 people. It causes progressive degeneration of the retina by damaging the photoreceptors. Initially it affects the rods (low light and peripheral vision), more than the cones (detail, central and colour vision). This means the first symptoms are problems with peripheral and night vision. Symptoms usually occur in teenagers or early adulthood and progressively get worse. A common complication of RP is the appearance of small pockets of fluid at the macula, called cystoid macular edema (CME) which causes reduced central vision, blurred vision and glare.

Read More >

Leber Congenital Amaurosis and Usher syndrome are examples of RP syndromes. Usher syndrome is also associated with deafness. While there is no current treatment for RP, research is being done to investigate possible interventions to prevent vision loss and restore sight, such as gene therapy and dietary supplements.

Why it matters

Some forms of RP can be associated with deafness, obesity, kidney disease, and various other general health problems which need to be managed or treated, including central nervous system and metabolic disorders, and occasionally chromosomal abnormalities. While the course of the disease cannot yet be altered, counselling, rehabilitation, low vision devices and support are crucial for people to continue to lead independent lives as their condition progresses.

More resources for health professionals:

https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/retinitis-pigmentosa/

Other resources and support:

http://www.rpfightingblindness.org.uk/home.php?home=yes

Sign up for the latest news and updates

Loading...

Peek Vision Head Office, 1 Fore St, London EC2Y 9DT UK

Peek, Peek Acuity and Peek Retina are trading names of Peek Vision Ltd, a registered company (09937174) in England and Wales.

Peek Vision Ltd is 100% owned by The Peek Vision Foundation (registered charity number 1165960), a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (company number: 9919543). Registered office: Kings Parade, Lower Coombe Street, Croydon, Surrey, England, CR0 1AA.