Diabetes is a disease that interferes with your body’s ability to use and store sugar. Too much sugar in the blood can cause damage throughout your body – and that includes the eyes. If left untreated, diabetes will cause eye complications by affecting the circulatory system of the retina over time.
This condition is known as diabetic retinopathy and it will cause progressive damage to your retina, the light sensitive lining at the back of the eye. Eye care professionals consider it a serious sight-threatening complication of diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy involves damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina. The condition usually affects both eyes and the longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they will develop diabetic retinopathy. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness, therefore it’s imperative to see your eye care specialist and schedule an eye exam if you are diagnosed with diabetes.
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
If you experience any of these symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, visit your eye doctor immediately.
- Seeing spots or floaters in your field of vision
- Blurred vision
- Having a dark or empty spot in the center of your vision
- Difficulty seeing well at night
There are often no visual symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. Better control of blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes slows the onset and progression of diabetic retinopathy.
The 4 Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy
The four stages of diabetic retinopathy are:
- mild nonproliferative retinopathy
- moderate nonproliferative retinopathy
- severe nonproliferative retinopathy
- proliferative retinopathy.
In its earliest stage, there are small areas of balloon-like swelling in the retina’s tiny blood vessels.
As the disease progresses, some blood vessels that nourish the retina are blocked.
During the third stage, many more blood vessels are blocked, depriving several areas of the retina of their blood supply. These areas send signals to the body to grow new blood vessels for nourishment.
At its advanced stage, the signals sent by the retina for nourishment cause the growth of new blood vessels. These new blood vessels are abnormal and fragile.
These are reasons why it is recommended that everyone with diabetes has a comprehensive dilated eye examination once a year. Early detection and treatment can limit the potential for significant vision loss from diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment
Treatment of diabetic retinopathy varies depending on the extent of the disease.
You may need laser surgery to seal leaking blood vessels or to discourage new leaky blood vessels from forming. Injections of medications into the eye may be needed to decrease inflammation or stop the formation of new blood vessels.
In more advanced cases, a surgical procedure to remove and replace the gel-like fluid in the back of the eye, called the vitreous, and may be needed. A retinal detachment, defined as a separation of the light-receiving lining in the back of the eye, resulting from diabetic retinopathy, may also require surgical repair.
If you are a diabetic, you can help prevent or slow the development of diabetic retinopathy by taking your prescribed medication, sticking to your diet, exercising regularly, controlling high blood pressure and avoiding alcohol and tobacco.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule an eye exam!
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