Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in adults in the United States. Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that can happen to anyone with type diabetes, including type 1 and type 2. Retinopathy is a disease of the retina which is the nerve layer that lines the back of your eye and sends images to your brain so what you are looking at gets processed. Almost half of all adults diagnosed with diabetes will get some degree of diabetic retinopathy which can lead to poor vision or even blindness. When retinopathy begins, the blood vessels become weak which can lead to blood or other fluid leaking into the retina. New blood vessels will grow on the retina, but they are very weak vessels that can break easily. If they break, it can leak blood into the middle of your eye which would change your vision because it is in front of your retina. This blood can also turn into scar tissue.

Make sure you see an eye doctor every year, this can help with diagnosing diabetic retinopathy early enough to make treatment beneficial and can help in preventing vision loss down the road. Symptoms usually do not start until the later stages of retinopathy which may include: blurred vision, poor night vision, vision loss, dark streaks or a red film that blocks your vision, and spots floating in your vision. Usually you will have the change in vision in both eyes because it is rare that diabetic retinopathy only happens in one eye. The cause of diabetic retinopathy is high blood sugar levels. You can help lower your chances of getting diabetic retinopathy if you control your blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels, and if you are a smoker you should quit. If you are struggling to control your blood sugar levels, make sure you talk to your doctor. Keeping your blood sugar levels steady will help with many other issues, not just retinopathy.

The only way to be diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy is by having an eye exam done by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. During this exam, the doctor will dilate your eyes and look for abnormal blood vessels, growth of new blood vessels and scar tissue, or swelling of the retina. Treatment will not start until the retinopathy has affected the middle of your eye. Focal laser treatment is an option that can be done in your eye doctor’s office by using a laser to burn and seal leaking blood vessels. This can stop any leakage of fluid or blood into your eye. Scatter laser treatment is another option that shrinks abnormal blood vessels by burning them with scattered laser burns. This can also be done in your doctor’s office. You will need to have this treatment done at least twice. An option that needs to be done in a hospital is a vitrectomy. A small incision is made in your eye to remove the scar tissue and blood-filled tissue. Unfortunately there is no cure for diabetic retinopathy.

Remember, most people with diabetes will get diabetic retinopathy of some degree. The longer you have diabetes, the higher your chances of getting diabetic retinopathy. People with type 1 diabetes are usually diagnosed as children or young adults, but people with type 2 diabetes are usually adults and sometimes it can be prevented. In order to lower your chances of getting type 2 diabetes make sure you eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise regularly. If you already have diabetes, the best thing to lower your chances of getting diabetic retinopathy is keeping your blood sugars in a normal level.


Last updated on Jan 24th, 2010 and filed under Diabetes Mellitus. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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