If you have diabetes, you are at risk to develop Diabetic Retinopathy. Regular eye examinations with your ophthalmologist are very important. By maintaining strict control of your blood sugar levels, you will significantly lower your risk of vision loss.
Diabetic Retinopathy is the result of damage caused by diabetes to the small blood vessels located in the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. Blood vessels damaged from Diabetic Retinopathy can cause vision loss.
In some people with Diabetic Retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In others, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. A healthy retina is necessary for good vision. If you have Diabetic Retinopathy, at first you may not notice changes to your vision. But over time, Diabetic Retinopathy can get worse and cause vision loss. Diabetic Retinopathy usually affects both eyes.
- Blurred vision and gradual vision loss
- Floaters and flashers
- Shadows or missing areas of vision
- Difficulty seeing well at night
Other problems that may develop are:
- Macular Edema – the macula is the area of the retina that provides sharp vision straight in front of you. If fluid leaks into this area, vision will become more blurry.
- Retinal Detachment -scarring may cause part of the retina to pull away from the back of the eyeball
A comprehensive eye examination by your doctor is the only way to find any changes in your eyes. An ophthalmologist can usually diagnose and treat serious Retinopathy before you are aware of any vision changes. The doctor will dilate your pupil and examine the inside of your eye with special equipment and lenses.
If your doctor finds Retinopathy, color photographs of the retina or a special test called fluorescein angiography will be requested to further evaluate your eye condition.
The best treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy is to prevent the development as much as possible. Strict control of blood sugar level will significantly reduce the long term risk of vision loss. Also, if high blood pressure and kidney problems are present, they need to be treated as well.
In the early stages of Diabetic Retinopathy, regular monitoring is usually all that is required. Follow your doctor’s advice for diet and exercise and keep blood sugar levels well-controlled. This can help control the progression of the disease.
If the disease advances, leakage of fluid from blood vessels can lead to Macular Edema. Laser treatment (photocoagulation) is used to stop the leakage of blood and fluid into the retina. A laser beam of light can be used to create small burns in areas of the retina with abnormal blood vessels to try to seal the leaks. Multiple laser treatments are sometimes necessary. Laser surgery is not a cure for Diabetic Retinopathy and does not always prevent further vision loss.
If significant amounts of blood leak into the vitreous fluid in the eye, it will cloud vision and can prevent laser photocoagulation from being used. A surgical procedure called a Vitrectomy may be used to remove the blood-filled vitreous and replace it with a clear solution.
People with diabetes should schedule comprehensive eye examination at once a year.