Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among patients. Diabetes restricts the body’s capability to use and store sugar which causes severe damage to your health. This condition can also have an effect on your vision, by harming the retina inside your eyes. Diabetic retinopathy ensues when your blood vessels leak fluid, triggering the retinal tissue to swell. This results in blurred vision for both eyes. It is vital to have a dilated comprehensive eye exam every year to detect symptoms of diabetic retinopathy. Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:
- Eye floaters
- Distorted vision
- Having a dark or empty spot in the center of your vision
- Development of a shadow in your field of view
- Double vision
- Eye pain
- Difficulty seeing at night
Some diabetic patients have a greater risk of developing diabetic retinopathy than others. The longer a patient has type 1 or type 2 diabetes, the more likely they will start to develop this condition. Patients that poorly take care of their diabetes have even a greater chance. Research shows that Hispanics and African Americans appear to be vulnerable to vision loss caused by diabetic retinopathy. Other medical conditions can also affect risks, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Diabetic retinopathy is categorized by two types, let’s breakdown the difference between the two.
Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy
Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy is considered the early stage of the disease and can occur at any time after diagnosing diabetes. Symptoms tend to be nonexistent to the patient, but the blood vessels inside the retina are deteriorated. During a dilated eye exam, microaneurysms can be detected. Microaneurysms are tiny bulges in the blood vessels which can leak and result in swelling of the macula.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the more progressive form of this condition and has a greater risk of vision loss. During this stage, growth factors unknown by the retina trigger the proliferation of new blood vessels. These vessels mature inside the surface of the retina and into the vitreous gel. The vitreous gel is the fluid that fills the eye. At this point, the new blood vessels are weakened which allows for leakage in the retina.
Prevention & Treatment
Early detection and treatment can reduce the risk of vision loss by 95% according to the National Eye Institute. Your stage of diabetic retinopathy determines your specific treatment. The main goal of treatment is to slow or stop the progression of non-proliferative or proliferative diabetic retinopathy. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a protein produced by cells in your body. Anti-VEGF medicine blocks VEGF, slowing the growth of blood vessels inside your retina. This injection will slow or stop the damage from the abnormal blood vessels while slowing the processing of losing your vision. If you are diabetic, you can help prevent or slow the development of diabetic retinopathy by:
- Frequent eye exams to monitor
- Taking your prescribed medication
- Eating a healthy and balanced diet
- Exercising regularly
- Controlling high blood pressure
- Avoid alcohol and smoking
Schedule your comprehensive dilated eye examination today if you have diabetes. We have 12 full-service IEC locations with world-class doctors who will provide you with a quality eye exam.