Diabetic retinopathy is a potentially blinding complication of diabetes that causes damage to the retina. Diabetes is a disease where there are high blood sugar levels, which can cause damage to blood vessels throughout your body. In the retina, diabetes can affect the tiny blood vessels that nourish it. When the vessels are damaged, they can leak serum, blood, and lipids into the retina, distorting vision. This eye disease will affect almost 80% of those who have had diabetes for at least 20 years and is the leading cause of blindness in individuals, aged 20-64.
Progressive damage to blood vessels causes them to break down and shut down, eventually leading to new abnormal blood vessel growth, called proliferative retinopathy. In its most advanced stage, proliferative retinopathy can lead to retinal scarring and ultimately, blindness.
Diagnosis of Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy progresses over time and ultimately leads to vision loss. In its early stages, patients do not notice symptoms. With routine, dilated, yearly, eye examinations and early treatment, 90% of those affected with advanced diabetic retinopathy can prevent vision loss.
Treating Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy can be treated with injection therapy and laser therapy.
Injection therapy may be indicated because swelling from diabetes has affected the center of your vision. Injections can be administered at Northeast Ohio Eye surgeons under local anesthesia. The frequency of required injections will be determined at each visit with your doctor.
During laser therapy, a high-energy beam of light is focused onto the damaged blood vessels, which seals off the leaking. However, 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, weight, and exercising regularly.
Diagnosis of Proliferate Retinopathy
Proliferate retinopathy occurs when damaged blood vessels leak and the retina does not get enough oxygen and other vital nutrients it needs to function. This complication stimulates new blood vessel growth. The new blood vessels are fragile and prone to hemorrhaging, which can then destroy the retina.
Treating Proliferate Retinopathy
Proliferate retinopathy can be treated with laser therapy, known as pan-retinal photocoagulation. During this treatment, the laser is used to apply hundreds of small burns to the retina, away from the macula. This procedure shrinks the abnormal vessels, but side vision and night vision could be permanently affected. However, without treatment, total blindness can occur.
If a large hemorrhage occurs in the jelly-like substance called the vitreous, 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 treatments 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.