Diabetic retinopathy: an overview

Key learning points:
– Diabetic retinopathy is a chronic and progressive complication of diabetes that threatens sight
– It is classified according to severity, with proliferation of fragile new vessels which are prone to leakage, being a hallmark of poorly controlled disease
– Optimal control of blood sugars and blood pressure has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of progression
Diabetes is a key public health issue. Epidemiological research estimates that in 2010 more than 3.1 million adults in England alone had diabetes and this prevalence is only set to increase. Public Health England estimates that by 2020 8.5% of the population are likely to have diabetes, rising to 9.5% by 2030. Visual impairment is the most feared long-term consequence of diabetes and the incidence of blindness is 25 times higher in patients with diabetes than in the general population. Population screening studies report a baseline incidence of diabetic retinopathy in type 1 diabetes of close to 45%, and in type 2 diabetes estimates range from 25-40%.2,4,5 Indeed, diabetic retinopathy remains the most common cause of blindness in working age people in the UK, with profound quality of life and health economic costs.
Having established the importance of understanding diabetic retinopathy, this article aims to provide an accessible overview through considering key ‘what, why, when and how’ questions as a framework for practice as well as understanding the role of primary care nurses in diabetic retinopathy patients.
The ‘what’ and ‘why’
Diabetic retinopathy is a chronic and progressive complication of diabetes that can threaten sight. Chronically elevated blood sugars are known to damage retinal capillaries and alter retinal blood flow. This results in areas of ischaemia and retinal injury. Hypoxic damage ultimately promotes the proliferation of abnormal new vessels that are fragile and prone to leaking and bleeding…..
Read more: http://www.nursinginpractice.com/article/diabetic-retinopathy-overview
Source: Nursing In Practice