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Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy (D.R.)?

High blood sugar levels are harmful to the fine vessels within your eye. In the early stages, diabetic eye disease often has no symptoms. Regular eye exams are extremely important if you have diabetes mellitus. Just like visiting your endocrinologist to monitor your blood glucose levels over time, keeping your vision appointments can help decrease your risk of disease and protect your vision. High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels in the retina, which can cause swelling, inadequate blood flow to the eye, and blurred vision. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to vitreous hemorrhaging, retinal detachment, and glaucoma. If you are diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, there are several treatment options. Your doctor will help you determine the best treatment plan for your diagnosis.

How is D.R. diagnosed?

IA medical eye examination can find changes inside your eye. An eye care specialist can often diagnose and treat serious retinopathy before you are aware of any vision problems. Your doctor dilates your pupil and looks at the inside of your eye. If your eye doctor finds diabetic retinopathy, he or she may order color photographs of the retina and a special test called fluorescein angiography to find out if you need treatment. In this test, fluorescent dye is injected into a vein in your arm and your eye is photographed as the dye passes through the blood vessels in the back of the eye.

How is it treated?

The best treatment for diabetic retinopathy is to prevent it’s development. Strict control of your blood sugar will significantly reduce the long-term risk of vision loss from diabetic retinopathy. If high blood pressure and kidney problems are present, they need to be treated. Intravitreal injection into the eye are often used to reduce fluid leakage and treat diabetic macular oedema (Swelling of the macula – causing reduced vision). On the other hand, laser treatment is often recommended for people with PDR and neovascular glaucoma. The main goal of treatment is to prevent further loss of vision. For PDR, the laser is focused on all parts of the retina except the macula. This panretinal photocoagulation treatment causes abnormal new vessels to shrink and often prevents them from growing in the future. It also decreases the chance that vitreous bleeding or retinal distortion will occur. Recently, eye injections have become a useful tool in the management of diabetic retinopathy. Multiple eye injections or laser treatments over time are sometimes necessary. These procedures do not cure diabetic retinopathy and does not always prevent further loss of vision. Sometimes, in severe cases, a patient may need to see a retina specialist to discuss more involved surgery.

What are the risks?

Vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy is preventable! If you have diabetes, it is important to know that today, with improved methods of diagnosis and treatment, only a small percentage of people who develop retinopathy have serious vision problems. Early detection of diabetic retinopathy is the best protection against loss of vision. You can significantly lower your risk of vision loss by maintaining strict control of your blood sugar and visiting your eye care specialist regularly.