Diabetic Eye Disease


Diabetic retinopathy is treated with laser treatment that can be performed in the clinic with no hospitalization stay. Focal laser is usually done in non-proliferative cases to slow down the leakage of fluid and reduce the amount of fluid in the retina while scatter laser shrinks the abnormal blood vessels in proliferative cases. Multiple sessions may be required to complete the treatment. This treatment has been shown to reduce risk of severe vision loss by 50%. In addition, patients with proliferative retinopathy have less than 5% chance of losing their vision within the next 5 years if they receive timely and appropriate treatment.

Surgery is only needed if there is a retinal detachment or if bleeding does not resolve spontaneously.

Diabetic eye disease can be detected through a comprehensive eye examination that includes visual acuity test, dilated retinal examination with colour retinal photography, and a high-definition scan of the retina if necessary.

All individuals with diabetes are at risk. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely it is for you to develop diabetic retinopathy. Studies have shown that 60% of diabetics on tablets and 100% of diabetics on injection have some form of diabetic eye disease over time. Diabetic retinopathy may be a problem for women with diabetes during pregnancy. Pregnant woman with diabetes should have a comprehensive eye examination even before family planning.

There are 3 types of diabetic retinopathy:

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathyProliferative diabetic retinopathyDiabetic macular edema
Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the earliest stage of diabetic retinopathy. In this stage, the damaged tiny blood vessels in the retina may begin to leak fluid and small amounts of blood hence causing the retina to swell or forming yellowish deposits at the back of your eye.
This is the most severe type of diabetic retinopathy. It occurs when new blood vessels begin to grow in the inner part of the retina. As these vessels are mostly abnormal and fragile, they may eventually lead to bleeding in the eye and in severe cases, form scar tissue that may cause the retina to wrinkle or detach.
This condition occurs when the damaged blood vessels allow fluid to leak into the most visually important part of the retina called the macula that is responsible for sharp central vision. Dr Cheryl Lee’s analogy is that if the retina is Singapore, the macula is Orchard road.

About 1 in 10 Singaporeans are diabetics. As the risk of developing diabetes increases with age, the prevalence of diabetes in Singapore expected to rise further along with the increased life expectancy in the country.  Diabetes can affect the eye in many ways: