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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Are there different types or severity of diabetic retinopathy? When should I get my eyes tested?

    I have recently been diagnosed with diabetes, and I know a friend with diabetes who had diabetic retinopathy, do I need to get checked for this and are there different types?
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    Dr John H. Chang

    Ophthalmologist (Eye Specialist)

    Dr John Chang is a Sydney-based ophthalmologist with specialist training in cataract surgery, medical retina and comprehensive ophthalmology. At his Strathfield practice, Dr Chang provides ... View Profile

    Yes, there are two main types of diabetic retinopathy: “non-proliferative” diabetic retinopathy and “proliferative” diabetic retinopathy. In terms of the severity scale, non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy can be classified as mild, moderate, and severe. Often patients start off as mild non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy and over time, especially if their diabetes is not well controlled, they progress on to moderate and then severe retinopathy. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the most severe or advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy and is characterized by very poor blood circulation in the retina and the growth of abnormal blood vessels that can bleed. Most forms of diabetic retinopathy are asymptomatic until they become severe enough that they cause vision loss. It is therefore essential that ALL diabetic persons have their eyes/retina examined by an optometrist or ophthalmologist on a regular basis. When diabetic retinopathy is detected early, it can be monitored and when required treated in order to prevent vision loss and blindness. Even milder degrees of diabetic retinopathy can cause vision loss by causing swelling of the central retina (called “macular oedema”).

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