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Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes affects 1.1 million Australians, and increased risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma. However the most serious concern for the eye is the development of Diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is the commonest cause of blindness in people aged under 50 in Australia.

In the long-term, high blood glucose levels causes the small blood vessels of the retina to become weak, leak fluid and/ or become blocked. In severe cases it can result in the growth of abnormal blood vessels within the eye. The final effect is swelling of the macula and/or bleeding and scarring within the retina, all of which can result in blindness.

Risk factors for diabetic retinopathy include:

  • high blood glucose levels
  • high blood pressure
  • abnormal blood lipids
  • excess weight and lack of exercise
  • smoking
  • duration of diabetes
  • ethnicity (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are at higher risk)
  • occurrence of gestational diabetes
  • genetics

A dilated eye examination is necessary at least every 2 years if you have been diagnoses with diabetes as the early stages of diabetic retinopathy presents no visual symptoms. If diabetic retinopathy is detected, eye examinations should occur every 6-12 months.

Treatment of diabetic retinopathy will depend on the stage and location of the disease.

Diabetic macular oedema (macular swelling) can be treated by injecting certain medications (anti-VEGF or steroids) into the eye under local anaesthetic to reduce the retinal swelling, along with laser treatment.

Proliferative Diabetic retinopathy requires extensive laser treatment. Anti-VEGF injections may also be required. In some cases where there is extensive bleeding within the eye, a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy maybe required to remove the blood and minimise scarring of the retina.

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A retinal camera, used for taking retinal photographs

A retinal camera, used for taking retinal photographs

An OCT (ocular coherence tomogram) scanner, used to take cross sectional images of the internal layers of the macula

An OCT (ocular coherence tomogram) scanner, used to take cross sectional images of the internal layers of the macula

Dr Dana Robaei - Sydney Ophthalmologist

Dr Dana Robaei

Ophthalmic Surgeon MBBS(Hons) BSc(med) MPH PhD FRANZCO

Dr Dana Robaei is a consultant ophthalmic surgeon, with fellowship training in Cataract Surgery and Corneal Transplantation from Moorfields Eye Hospital, and Medical Retina from Sydney Eye Hospital.

She has extensively published in the national and international ophthalmic literature, and presented at international ophthalmology conferences.

She specialises in Cataract Surgery, Pterygium Surgery, Macular Degeneration and all aspects of comprehensive ophthalmology.

Dr Robaei is committed to clinical and surgical excellence, with the aim of providing the highest possible standard of care based on the latest available evidence, in combination with effective communication to patients and their referrers.

Professional Qualifications

  • Graduated from UNSW with Honours, Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery
  • Master of Public Health, UNSW
  • PhD in medicine (Visual impairment in Australian School Children)
  • Advances specialty training in ophthalmology and ophthalmic surgery at Sydney Eye Hospital
  • Subspecialty fellowship training in cataract surgery and corneal transplantation at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London UK
  • Clinical Senior Lecturer in ophthalmology, University of Sydney
  • Consultant Ophthalmologist, Westmead Hospital
  • Director of Forest Eye Surgery, Frenchs Forest