If you have diabetes, you probably know that your blood glucose or blood sugar levels are too high. Over time, this can damage the blood vessels in your eyes resulting to different eye problems. The most common eye problem for people with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy which is the damaging of the tiny blood vessels inside the retina.
In later stages, the disease may lead to new blood vessel growth over the retina. The new blood vessels can cause scar tissue to develop, which can pull the retina away from the back of the eye. This is known as retinal detachment, and it can lead to blindness if untreated. In addition, abnormal blood vessels can grow on the iris, which can lead to glaucoma.
People with diabetes are 25 times more likely to lose vision than those who are not diabetic, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Diabetic Retinopathy Symptoms and Signs
Everyone who has diabetes is at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, but not all diabetics do develop it. As soon as you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you need to have a dilated eye exam at least once a year. In its early stages, you may not see any symptoms that’s why it can progress unnoticed until it starts to affect your vision. Floaters can be a sign of the disease due to the bleeding from abnormal retinal blood vessels. Sometimes difficulty reading or doing close work can indicate that fluid is collecting in the macula, the most light-sensitive part of the retina. This fluid build-up is called macular edema.
Another sign is double vision, which occurs when the nerves controlling the eye muscles are affected. If you experience any of these signs, see your eye doctor immediately. Otherwise, diabetics should see their eye doctor at least once a year for a dilated eye exam.
Your eye doctor may diagnose retinopathy using a special test called fluorescein angiography. In this test, dye is injected into the body and then gradually appears within the retina due to blood flow. The illuminated dye in the retina usually tells the doctor how far the disease has progressed.
Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment
Fortunately, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by using common sense and taking good care of yourself.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 95 percent of those with significant diabetic retinopathy can avoid substantial vision loss if they are treated in time. The possibility of early detection is why it is so important for diabetics to have a dilated eye exam at least once a year. The OCT Cirrus system is used for early detection of diabetic conditions.
Diabetic retinopathy can be treated with laser photocoagulation to seal off leaking blood vessels and destroy new growth. Laser photocoagulation doesn’t cause pain, because the retina does not contain nerve endings.
In some patients, blood leaks into the vitreous humor and clouds vision. The eye doctor may choose to simply wait to see if the clouding will dissipate on its own, a period called “watchful waiting.” A procedure called a vitrectomy removes blood that has leaked into the vitreous humor. The body gradually replaces lost vitreous humor, and vision usually improves.
If diabetic retinopathy has caused your body to form a cataract, it can be corrected surgically. Patients who have developed glaucoma should see a glaucoma specialist. Small studies using investigational treatments for diabetic retinopathy have demonstrated significant vision improvement for individuals who are in early stages of the disease. Two treatments that are closely related, Lucentis and Avastin, may be able to stop or reverse vision loss, similar to very promising results that have been reported when the two drugs have been used as treatments for macular degeneration.
Ebsaar Eye Surgery Center, one of the leading Laser Eye Surgery Specialists in the region.