Diabetic retinopathy is a condition in which the blood vessels of the retina become damaged by excess sugar in the blood stream. When nourishment to the light sensitive cells of the retina are blocked, vision loss can occur. In fact, diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
At Stop Diabetic Blindness, our nationally recognized team of eye doctors utilizes the most advanced retinal care technology available. Even if you are not suffering any of the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, if you have diabetes, you need to be screened yearly. This exam can help detect early stages of diabetic retinopathy, helping ensure prompt treatment when necessary to prevent a permanent loss of vision. We are also able to detect diabetic macular edema (DME) which is a condition that often occurs in conjunction with diabetic retinopathy and can result in distorted vision, vision loss and blindness.
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 28 percent of diabetics have or will develop diabetic retinopathy, but many fail to have yearly eye examinations due to a lack of clear symptoms. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of diabetes-related vision loss in people ages 24-70 in the United States, but noticeable symptoms may not manifest until irreversible vision complications have already occurred.
It is important to know the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, but equally important to be examined every year for early detection of this condition. Even when asymptomatic, diabetic retinopathy treatment can be used to help guard against vision loss.
Diabetic Retinopathy Symptoms
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy may include:
- Double vision
- Eye pain, pressure, or redness
- Vision fluctuations
- Flashers, floaters, and spots
- Blind spots in the central field of vision
- Blurry vision
- Nearsightedness not related to presbyopia
Diabetic Retinopathy Complications
Complications associated with diabetic retinopathy include: Retinal detachment – Abnormal blood vessels in the eye can result in the creation of scar tissue that pulls the retina away from the back of the eye Vitreous hemorrhage – Leaking blood vessels can bleed into the vitreous humor, filling the cavity and blocking vision Glaucoma – The growth of new blood vessels can interfere with the normal flow of fluid out of the eye, increasing intraocular pressure and damaging the optic nerve All of these complications can lead to a complete loss of vision. Due to the threat diabetic retinopathy poses to your vision, the American Diabetes Association recommends annual eye exams for people with both types of this disease. During your visits to Stop Diabetic Blindness, we will discuss your visual changes, answer any questions about diabetic retinopathy that you may have, and help you determine what steps will best help guard your vision well into the future.
Diabetic Retinopathy Treatments
Laser treatments used for diabetic retinopathy include:
- Focal laser photocoagulation – Aiming laser energy directly at the affected area or applying it in a grid-like pattern, our eye doctors can target and seal specific blood vessels, remove damaged eye tissue, and clear away scars that can lead to vision loss
- Scatter laser photocoagulation – Applying tiny spots of laser energy to the periphery of the retina, our eye doctors can treat surrounding tissue without touching the retina itself. This is more effective for treating early stages of diabetic retinopathy
Intravitreal Injections used for diabetic macular edema and/or vitreous hemorrhage include:
- Avastin – an angiogenesis inhibitor that slows the growth of new blood vessels
- Lucentis – an anti-angiogenic that inhibits vascular growth
- Eylea – an anti-VEGF that prevents abnormal blood vessels from leaking into the macula
For people with advanced or proliferative diabetic retinopathy, bleeding into the vitreous may render laser treatments ineffective. In some cases, this condition will clear on its own. However, when it fails to do so, a vitrectomy will be necessary to prevent further vision loss.
A vitrectomy is a procedure in which the vitreous humor is removed. The vitreous humor is then replaced with a saline liquid to restore pressure in the inner chamber of the eye. Vitrectomy is more invasive than laser treatment, but may be necessary for advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy. To help reduce your risk for this type of treatment, we recommend people with diabetes visit our retina specialist at least once a year even if you are not currently experiencing any symptoms of diabetic retinopathy
There is no cure for diabetic retinopathy, but early detection and targeted treatments are essential for preventing complete vision loss.