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Diabetic Retinopathy

When we eat our blood sugar raises rapidly. Normally the body responds to this by producing insulin, which causes the sugar to be rapidly stored in the body, thus restoring sugar levels to normal. If blood sugar levels remain high they progressively damage our organs and blood vessels. That is Diabetes. Diabetes comes in two main forms: Type 1 Diabetes in which children and young people’s ability to make insulin is lost; and Type 2 Diabetes where our bodies stop listening to insulin telling it to store sugar. Gestational Diabetes can occur in pregnancy.

Our eyes are also damaged by sustained high blood sugar, which can cause blindness. Over 7% of Australians have diabetes. One third of them have some eye damage. One third of those persons have vision-threating damage: nearly 1% of Australians. Damage to the macula can spread to the fovea, destroying our acute vision. We therefore need to monitor visual function in multiple parts of the macula to watch for encroaching damage that may spread to the fovea. There are effective therapies but we need better tools to decide which patients should receive them and when. Vision ACTion is working on treatments and diagnostics for diabetic eye damage.

Image by Sharon McCutcheon
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