Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetes-related complication affecting the eyes due to damage to the retina's blood vessels. In the early stages, the disease may not exhibit symptoms, but over time it can cause vision loss or blindness. The condition can affect anyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. It usually develops when blood sugar is less controlled or when an individual has had diabetes for a long time.
Excess sugar in the blood can block the tiny vessels of blood inside the retina. It cuts off the blood supply to the area, causing the eye to attempt to grow new vessels. The new blood vessels are abnormal and leak easily.
The early form, nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy, is where new blood vessels are not proliferating or growing. Advanced or proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the more severe type.
Symptoms may not develop in the initial stages, but as it progresses, patients usually experience the following:
Dark strings or spots in the vision.
Impaired color vision.
Poor night vision.
Empty or dark areas in the vision.
Vision loss or blindness.
Proper management of diabetes is the best way to protect your vision. If you have diabetes, an annual dilated eye exam is essential to check for signs of retinopathy.
Any person with diabetes can get diabetic retinopathy. There are, however, factors that increase the risk of the condition developing. They include:
Having diabetes for years.
Poor management of blood sugar level.
Having high blood pressure.
Developing diabetes in pregnancy (gestational diabetes).
Smoking or using tobacco products.
Being of African, Hispanic, or Native American descent.
The growth of abnormal blood vessels can lead to eye complications and severe vision problems. Complications of diabetic retinopathy include vitreous hemorrhage as the blood vessels leak into the eye.
The growth of scar tissue caused by abnormal vessels can lead to retinal detachment. The growth can increase pressure in the eye, damaging the optic nerve and leading to glaucoma. With time, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness.
The goal of treatment is to stop or slow the progression of the disease. The treatment option will depend on the type or severity of diabetic retinopathy. Treatment may not be necessary for the early stages, but your eye doctor will carefully monitor the eyes. Your eye doctor may recommend treatment options if the condition worsens, including injecting medications into the eyes and laser treatment or photocoagulation.
Diabetes is a lifelong condition, so it is vital to manage it effectively. Following the recommended diet and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help prevent complications such as diabetic retinopathy.
Without treatment, the diseases can lead to vision loss or blindness. Annual comprehensive eye exams can help detect the disease early. Early detection can help prevent the worsening of the condition.
For more on the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, call Quality Eye Care at (904) 601-1300 to discuss symptoms or schedule an appointment.