While many men and women are familiar with diabetes, only a very few are acquainted with Diabetic Retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy refers to the diabetic complication responsible for causing changes in the blood vessels of the retina.
These blood vessels may swell, leak, or start growing on the retina surface, depending on your condition. Even though it may create only mild vision issues at the beginning, Diabetic Retinopathy can lead to blindness as well. The good news is that you can easily prevent this with routine checkups and diabetes management.
- 1 Quick Facts About Diabetic Retinopathy
- 1.1 What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
- 1.2 Who Is At The Risk of Getting Diabetic Retinopathy?
- 1.3 What Is The Reason Behind Diabetic Retinopathy?
- 1.4 What Are The Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy?
- 1.5 What Are The Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy?
- 1.6 What Are The Complications Related to Diabetic Retinopathy?
- 1.7 Vitreous Hemorrhage
- 1.8 Detached Retina
- 1.9 Glaucoma
- 1.10 How Can You Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy?
- 1.11 What Is The Treatment For Diabetic Retinopathy?
- 1.12 Anti-VEGF Injections
- 1.13 Photocoagulation Surgery
- 1.14 Key Takeaways:
Quick Facts About Diabetic Retinopathy
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetic complication that occurs as a result of damaged blood vessels of the retina. This condition is often observed in patients suffering from type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Patients having uncontrolled high blood sugar levels are more prone to developing this condition.
Diabetic retinopathy usually starts with mild vision issues and can cause blindness if not diagnosed and treated on time. However, it takes several years for diabetes patients to reach the stage where they would completely lose their vision.
The high amount of blood sugar blocks the blood vessels responsible for nourishing the eyes. Once the blood supply is cut off, eyes attempt to form new blood vessels. As these vessels don’t form properly and leak, you suffer from diabetic retinopathy.
Who Is At The Risk of Getting Diabetic Retinopathy?
Anyone with a prolonged history of uncontrolled high blood sugar is at the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. This diabetic condition can happen to both type 1 and type 2 patients. However, you might be at a greater risk of developing this if you have:
Those who can keep their blood sugar level and cholesterol under control are less likely to develop diabetic retinopathy.
What Is The Reason Behind Diabetic Retinopathy?
Human eyes have retina which changes images into nerve signals so that the brain can understand it at ease. When you have high blood sugar, the excess sugar damages the blood vessels supplying your retina with blood.
Once these blood vessels are damaged, your retina doesn’t get the usual blood supply. Other weak blood vessels start to grow because of this reason.
Chances are high that these new vessels will leak and therefore cause scar tissue. Patients having diabetes for more than 30 years are more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy. The only way to slow down the progression is to keep your diabetes under control and have your eyes checked at least once in a year.
What Are The Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy?
Most of the patients report that there is no significant symptom of diabetic retinopathy during the early stages. Symptoms become stronger when a major damage happens inside your eyes. Monitoring your eye health and keeping blood sugar levels down is the only way to prevent your eyes from being damaged. Some of the most common symptoms that appear in both eyes include:
What Are The Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy often has four stages i.e. Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy, Moderate Proliferative Retinopathy, Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy, and Proliferative Retinopathy. Nonproliferative retinopathy refers to the condition when the damaged blood vessels leak blood and fluid into the eye. Proliferative retinopathy happens when the new blood vessels start growing within your retina.
Mild Proliferative Retinopathy
Mild proliferative retinopathy occurs when microaneurysms appear. These swollen areas appear like balloons in the tiny blood vessels of the retina.
Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy
At this stage of diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels nourishing the retina are usually blocked.
Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy
Severe nonproliferative retinopathy happens when many blood vessels are blocked. The retina is deprived of the blood supply because of this. At this stage, the retina sends signals stating the need for growing new blood vessels that would help the retina in nourishment.
Proliferative retinopathy is the advanced most stage of diabetic retinopathy. New blood vessels start growing at this stage. These vessels grow along the retina as well as the surface of the eyes. Even though these blood vessels don’t cause loss of vision, severe vision loss might happen when these vessels start leaking because of their fragile walls.
What Are The Complications Related to Diabetic Retinopathy?
Since diabetic retinopathy involves growth or blood vessels in your retina, it may lead to severe complications which may cause several vision problems. Some of these complications are:
Vitreous Hemorrhage happens when the blood vessels bleed into the jelly-like substance located at the center of the eyes. You might be seeing floaters or dark spots if the amount of bleeding is little. However, more bleeding can fill the vitreous cavity and therefore block your vision. Vitreous Hemorrhage may not cause permanent vision loss unless the retina is damaged.
Diabetic retinopathy often stimulates the growth of scar tissue because of which the retina can be pulled away from the back of your eyes. This may cause floating spots or flashes of light in your vision.
Glaucoma happens when the blood vessels start growing in the front section of your eyes. These vessels often disturb the normal fluid flow and therefore cause pressure in your eyes. This pressure may damage your nerve responsible for carrying images from the eyes to the brain.
How Can You Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy?
The easiest way to prevent diabetic retinopathy is to go for regular eye examination, keeping blood sugar levels under control, and treating vision problems at an early stage. Here are some of the things that you can do to control the diabetic retinopathy:
What Is The Treatment For Diabetic Retinopathy?
Depending on the condition of your eyes, your doctor will conduct a comprehensive dilated examination of your eyes. However, you will need treatment right away if your eyes are in serious condition.
If you have been experiencing blurred vision or changes in vision, immediate treatment will help your vision from getting to a worse state. Here are some of the common treatments used for patients suffering from diabetic retinopathy:
Anti-VEGF drugs are often used to slow down the diabetic retinopathy. It can also reverse the condition. Doctors often use another medicine named corticosteroids to treat diabetic retinopathy.
Photocoagulation surgery is one of the most effective treatments that prevent loss of vision. During this surgery, your doctor will be using a laser to stop or control the leakage by sealing the vessels. There are three types of photocoagulation surgery i.e. scatter photocoagulation, focal photocoagulation, and vitrectomy.
In Scatter photocoagulation, hundreds of little holes are burnt two or more times using the laser. Focal photocoagulation allows you to get rid of a specific leaky vessel which otherwise would have made the macular edema worse. In the vitrectomy method, all the scar tissues and cloudy fluid are removed.