What are the ophthalmologic complications of type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM)?

Updated: Oct 08, 2021
  • Author: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP; Chief Editor: George T Griffing, MD  more...
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Patients with preproliferative or proliferative retinopathy must immediately be referred for ophthalmologic evaluation. Laser therapy is effective in this condition, especially if it is provided before hemorrhage occurs.

Often, the first hemorrhage is small and is noted by the patient as a fleeting dark area (or “floater”) in the field of vision. Because subsequent hemorrhages can be larger and more serious, the patient should immediately be referred to an ophthalmologist for possible laser therapy. Patients with retinal hemorrhage should be advised to limit their activity and keep their head upright (even while sleeping), so that the blood settles to the inferior portion of the retina and thus obscures less of the central visual area.

Multifactorial intervention is important for slowing the progression of diabetic retinopathy. Metabolic control, smoking cessation, and blood pressure control are all protective. Patients with active proliferative diabetic retinopathy are at increased risk for retinal hemorrhage if they receive thrombolytic therapy; therefore, this condition is a relative contraindication to the use of thrombolytic agents. (See Diabetic Retinopathy and Macular Edema in Diabetes.)

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