Diabetic Retinopathy 2020-12-09T08:11:18-05:00

Diabetic retinopathy can cause vision loss in people who have diabetes

There are usually no symptoms in the early stages of this condition so regular examinations for people with diabetes are important
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Diabetic retinopathy can cause frustration and concern around further vision loss

DISCOVER MORE ABOUT THIS CONDITION AND HOW TO TREAT IT

Everyone who has diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, but not everyone develops it. Changes in blood sugar levels increase the risk. Generally, people with diabetes don’t develop diabetic retinopathy until they’ve had diabetes for at least ten years.

The new vessels also may damage the retina by forming scar tissue and pulling the retina away from its proper location. This is called retinal detachment and can lead to blindness if left untreated

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy

  • There are usually no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy
  • Floaters
  • Difficulty reading or doing close work
  • Double vision
  • If left untreated, severe vision loss can occur

Diabetes is a disease that affects blood vessels throughout the body, particularly vessels in the kidneys and eyes. When the blood vessels in the eyes are affected, this is called diabetic retinopathy.

The retina is in the back of the eye. It detects visual images and transmits them to the brain. Major blood vessels lie on the front portion of the retina. When these blood vessels are damaged due to diabetes, they may leak fluid or blood and grow scar tissue. This leakage affects the ability of the retina to detect and transmit images.

During the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, vision is typically not affected. As the retinopathy advances, new blood vessels grow in the retina. These new vessels are the body’s attempt to overcome and replace the vessels that have been damaged by diabetes. However, these new vessels are not normal. They may bleed and cause the vision to become hazy, occasionally resulting in a complete loss of vision. The growth of abnormal blood vessels on the iris of the eye can lead to glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy can also cause your body to form cataracts.

The new vessels also may damage the retina by forming scar tissue and pulling the retina away from its proper location. This is called retinal detachment and can lead to blindness if left untreated.

There are usually no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. Vision may not change until the disease becomes severe. An exam is often the only way to diagnose changes in the vessels of your eyes. This is why regular examinations for people with diabetes are extremely important.

Your eye doctor may perform a test called fluorescein angiography. During the test, we inject a harmless orange-red dye called fluorescein into a vein in your arm. The dye will travel through your body to the blood vessels in your retina. Your doctor will use a special camera with a green filter to flash a blue light into your eye and take multiple photographs. The pictures will be analyzed to identify any damage to the lining of the retina or atypical new blood vessels.

Diabetic retinopathy does not usually impair sight until long-term complications such as proliferative retinopathy (when abnormal new blood vessels bleed into the eye) develop. When this advanced stage of retinopathy occurs, pan-retinal photocoagulation is one treatment that we can perform. During this procedure, we use a laser to destroy all of the dead areas of the retina where blood vessels have closed. When we treat these areas with the laser, the retina stops manufacturing new blood vessels, and those that are already present tend to decrease or disappear. Intravitreal injections of medications (anti-VEGF drugs) are another treatment option for diabetic retinopathy that we can administer to decrease or eliminate retinal swelling. These are typically administered in several sessions over a year to improve diabetic retinopathy.

If diabetic retinopathy has caused cataracts to develop more quickly, we can easily remove them with cataract surgery.

You can reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by:

  • Keeping your blood sugar under control.
  • Monitoring your blood pressure.
  • Maintaining a healthy diet.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Getting an eye exam at least once a year.

How many injections will be needed to treat my diabetic retinal disease?

Typically, several injections are required to achieve a significant improvement. The frequency and the total number of injections depend on the type of medication we choose as well as the clinical response.

I was just diagnosed with diabetes, when should I have my first exam?

We recommend an initial diabetic dilated exam when you’re first diagnosed and then once a year if you show no signs of disease or if the disease is stable

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Academic resources on diabetic retinopathy

FOLLOW THE LINKS BELOW TO DISCOVER MORE ABOUT THIS TREATMENT FROM AUTHORITATIVE SOURCES

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that can cause vision loss and blindness in people who have diabetes. It affects blood vessels in the retina (the light-sensitive layer of tissue in the back of your eye). Click here to read on.

Diabetic retinopathy (die-uh-BET-ik ret-ih-NOP-uh-thee) is a diabetes complication that affects eyes. It’s caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina). Click here to read on.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common form of diabetic eye disease. Diabetic retinopathy usually only affects people who have had diabetes (diagnosed or undiagnosed) for a significant number of years. Click here to read on.

People with diabetes can have an eye disease called diabetic retinopathy. This is when high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in the retina. Click here to read on.

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