​ Diabetic Retinopathy

September 16, 2016

Diabetes is a condition where your blood-sugar (or blood glucose) levels are too high and your body is unable to produce any or enough insulin to control it.  Being diabetic increases the risk of other diseases or conditions occurring and therefore it is important that diabetics are regularly monitored for any signs of these so that they are treated in the early stages.   If diabetes is well-controlled such risks are lower but may still occur.

One of the risks are problems with the eye, which if not caught early enough can lead to loss of sight.    This is known as diabetic retinopathy and is a significant cause of sight loss in adults under 65 years of age.  The NHS Diabetic Eye Screening (DES) Programme was introduced to identify early signs of the disease as there are often no symptoms until the disease is quite advanced.  Annual screening is therefore offered to all diabetics aged 12 and over.   Diabetic retinopathy can be prevented if diagnosed early enough but it is not possible to reverse any damage already caused to the eye.   There are three progressive stages:-

Background Diabetic Retinopathy

The blood vessels in the retina swell and can sometimes leak blood or fluid.   At this stage vision is normal and the macula (the oval, yellowish area near the centre of the retina) is undamaged.


The blood vessels leak and the macula becomes affected, and central vision gradually becomes worse.   Peripheral vision is retained, but it can be difficult to recognise faces from a distance or to see detail.

Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy

The blood vessels in the retina become blocked.  As a result of this new blood vessels form in the eye to try to give the retina a new blood supply.  However, the vessels are weak and grow on the surface of the retina and can scar very easily.  This causes scar tissue to form which distorts the retina out of position.  At this stage retina bleeding can cause blurred or patchy vision or sudden and severe sight loss.  The retina can become detached.  Total loss of vision can occur.

Laser treatment is usually offered to prevent any further sight loss.  This seals the blood vessels which are leaking and can prevent 80% of new blood vessels from growing.  It cannot repair damage though, so early diagnosis and treatment is key.   Ongoing eye checks should continue in case further laser treatment is required.

If you have been diagnosed with Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy which you believe occurred because you were not offered annual eye screening checks or you were being checked regularly but early signs were not picked up until it was too late, speak to us and we can advise you on whether you have a potential claim.

At Metcalfes, our team of experienced medical negligence solicitors are here to sensitively help guide you through any potential claims you may have. We deal with all areas of medical negligence. If you think that you or a loved one has suffered as a result of medical negligence, we may be able to help.

Please contact us on 0117 239 8012.  Alternatively, you can email us by using our online contact form and we will be happy to discuss your potential claim with you.


Further Reading:

Website content note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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​  Diabetic Retinopathy

Gillian Clark

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