WHAT IS DIABETIC EYE DISEASE?
Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may face as a complication of diabetes. All can cause severe vision loss or even blindness. If you have diabetic retinopathy, at first you may notice no changes to your vision. But over time, diabetic retinopathy can get worse and cause vision loss.
Diabetic retinopathy is the result of damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina. They leak blood and other fluids that cause swelling of retinal tissue and clouding of vision. The condition usually affects both eyes. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they will develop diabetic retinopathy. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness.
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:
- Seeing spots or floaters in your field of vision
- Blurry or double vision
- Pain or pressure in one or both of your eyes
- Rings, flashing lights or blank spots
- Difficulty seeing well at night
How is diabetic retinopathy treated?
Treatment of diabetic retinopathy varies depending on the extent of the disease. It may require laser surgery to seal leaking blood vessels or to discourage new leaky blood vessels from forming. Injections of medications into the eye may be needed to decrease inflammation or stop the formation of new blood vessels. In more advanced cases, a surgical procedure to remove and replace the gel-like fluid in the back of the eye, called the vitreous may be needed. A retinal detachment, defined as a separation of the light-receiving lining in the back of the eye, resulting from diabetic retinopathy, may also require surgical repair.
If you are a diabetic, you can help prevent or slow the development of diabetic retinopathy by taking your prescribed medication, sticking to your diet, exercising regularly, controlling high blood pressure and avoiding alcohol and smoking.
Diabetic eye disease may include:
- Diabetic retinopathy – damage to the blood vessels in the retina.
- Cataract – clouding of the eye’s lens. Cataracts develop at an earlier age in people with diabetes.
- Glaucoma – increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision. A person with diabetes is nearly twice as likely to get glaucoma as other adults.
What are the stages of diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy has four stages:
- Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy. At this earliest stage, microaneurysms occur. They are small areas of balloon-like swelling in the retina’s tiny blood vessels.
- Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy. As the disease progresses, some blood vessels that nourish the retina are blocked.
- Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy. Many more blood vessels are blocked, depriving several areas of the retina with their blood supply. These areas of the retina send signals to the body to grow new blood vessels for nourishment.
- Proliferative Retinopathy. At this advanced stage, the signals sent by the retina for nourishment trigger the growth of new blood vessels. This condition is called proliferative retinopathy. These new blood vessels are abnormal and fragile. They grow along the retina and along the surface of the clear, vitreous gel that fills the inside of the eye. By themselves, these blood vessels do not cause symptoms or vision loss. However, they have thin, fragile walls. If they leak blood, severe vision loss and even blindness can result.
If you have diabetes, you should have a complete eye exam every year. Finding and treating problems early may save your vision. Treatment often includes laser treatment or surgery. If you have diabetes, we encourage you to call us today at Fillmore Eye Clinic for an eye exam to determine if your vision is being affected.