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How much do you know diabetic retinopathy?

About 10% of adults in Hong Kong have diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes. Early diabetic retinopathy will not cause obvious blurring or pain to the eyes. When the disease progresses to the later stage, the vision will be obviously affected, and in severe cases, it may even cause blindness. Diabetes is one of the ten causes of blindness in the world.

Apart from diagnosing retinopathy, regular eye examination is an effective method for evaluating diabetes control. The risk factors of diabetic retinopathy include older age, have a longer period of diabetes, have high serum cholesterol and rely on insulin therapy. The effects of diabetes on the eyes are mainly unstable vision, untable prescription of glasses, retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma.

The prevalence of diabetic retinopathy is related to the duration of diabetes. Most patients having diabetes over ten years may have some signs of retinopathy. Diabetes can damage retinal vessels, affecting the absorption of nutrients by the retina. Proteins or blood could be leaked due to broken blood vessel walls, this will gradually affect visual function. If it is not discovered timely, long-term microvascular leakage will cause retinal hypoxia, growth of new vessels and serious retinal complications, such as macular edema, retinal detachment, vitreous hemorrhage, and fibrosis. Visual function will eventually be affected or even blind. In addition to retinopathy, diabetes may also cause cataracts and glaucoma due to vessel growth at iris. Since there are no obvious symptoms in early diabetic retinopathy, effective control of blood glucose level and blood pressure, regular comprehensive eye examination by optometrist or ophthalmologist can detect and control the disease early to protect the health of the eyes.

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