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Delayed Diagnosis of Diabetic Retinopathy

Our vision, one of our precious senses, and perhaps something so many of us take for granted.  Our vision can be affected by so many different factors. A complication that can be suffered by patients with diabetes is a condition called diabetic retinopathy. The condition occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the cells at the back of the eye; these cells are known as the retina, and if it is not treated it can lead to blindness.

The amount of people being diagnosed with diabetes increased to 3.2 million in 2014 and according to diabetes UK, 6% of the UK are living with diabetes. This highlights the increasing importance to recognise and treat those presenting with symptoms of diabetic retinopathy.

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetes related complication that can lead to progressive damage to the retina of the eye. It is caused when small blood vessels swell, or when the retina is impaired by the growth of new blood vessels.  It is reported by the NHS that diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of blindness across working age people in the UK.


In its early stages diabetic retinopathy may not have any symptoms; this is why it is so important for those suffering from diabetes to attend regular eye check ups. The NHS runs a national screening programme, which aims to reduce the risk of vision loss in people with diabetes. The programme aims to identify retinopathy at an early stage to ensure that treatment is given.

Those with diabetes over the age of 12 years are invited to attend screening once a year.

In its later stages symptoms may include:

•    shapes floating in your field of vision, floaters
•    blurred vision
•    sudden blindness

The importance of prompt diagnosis and treatment

The earlier that retinopathy is identified, the greater the chance of effectively treating it and preventing it from progressing to blindness.

If treated promptly, the prognosis for recovery is good, but partial and even full loss of vision can result if the condition is left untreated.

It is crucial for the symptoms of the disease to be recognised as early as possible and therefore it is vital that patients attend regular screening appointments and also that healthcare professionals are alert to the symptoms and provide appropriate treatment when required.

Delayed diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy and therefore delayed treatment can lead to a patient suffering irreversible damage to their sight.  If a patient’s symptoms have gone unnoticed by those treating them when they should not have been, and they have then suffered a worse outcome as a result then they may be able to bring a clinical negligence claim for compensation for their injuries.

If you suffer from diabetic retinopathy and have concerns that this should have been diagnosed and treated sooner, then please contact me or one of my colleagues for further advice on whether you may have grounds for a claim.

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