Diabetic retinopathy is a potentially blinding complication of diabetes that damages the retina. It affects half of those diagnosed with diabetes.
The retina is a light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye that transmits light into nerve signals that the brain interprets. Without the retina, there is no communication with the brain, making vision impossible. Diabetes affects the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina. When the vessels are damaged, they can leak serum, blood, and lipids into the retina, distorting vision. In its most advanced stage, called proliferate retinopathy, increasing numbers of new abnormal blood vessels grow on the retina, which can lead to retinal scarring and ultimately, blindness.
Diagnosis of Diabetic Retinopathy
In its early stages, patients with diabetic retinopathy notice no symptoms. Diabetic retinopathy can progress over time and lead to vision loss. With routine, dilated, yearly, eye examinations and early treatment, 90% of those with advanced diabetic retinopathy can be saved from vision loss.
Treating Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy can be treated with injection therapy, steroid therapy, and laser therapy. During laser therapy treatment, a high-energy beam of light is focused onto the damaged blood vessels which seals off the leaking. It may take more than one treatment to seal off the damaged blood vessels.
The best way to control diabetic retinopathy involves early detection of the disease, along with a commitment from the patient to control his or her diabetes, including monitoring blood sugar levels and weight, and exercising regularly.
Diagnosis of Proliferate Retinopathy
When the damaged blood vessels leak, the retina does not get oxygen and other vital nutrients it needs to function. This stimulates new blood vessel growth. The problem with these new vessels is that they are fragile and prone to hemorrhaging, which can destroy the retina.
Treating Proliferate Retinopathy
Laser is used to destroy the abnormal blood vessels that form in the retina. Instead of focusing the light on a single spot, hundreds of small laser burns are applied to the retina away from the macula. This treatment shrinks the abnormal vessels but some of the side vision and night vision are permanently affected. However, without the treatment, total blindness can occur. If a large hemorrhage occurs in the jelly-like substance called the vitreous that is located in the front of the retina, a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy may be needed. This involves removing the cloudy and blood-filled vitreous and replacing it with a clear salt solution.
Although laser and vitrectomy are successful, they do not cure diabetic retinopathy. Prevention of retinopathy is the best method to preserve vision. Checking blood sugar, controlling diet, and increasing exercise is the best way to minimize your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. If you are diabetic, a dilated, yearly, eye examination is mandatory to diagnose retinopathy before it enters into an advanced stage.