Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy: What You Need to Know

Diabetes can affect your eyesight

If you have diabetes, your body does not store and use sugar properly. High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels all over your body, specifically blood vessels in your retina. Damage to the blood vessels and subsequently, the nerve layer in the back of your eye, is referred to as diabetic retinopathy.

   How may we help?

Two Types of Diabetic Retinopathy

1.  Nonproliferative (NPDR)

NPDR is early damage to your eye-tiny blood vessels leak blood or fluid and exudates form. Many people with NPDR have normal vision, but when the most sensitive part of the eye is affected by macular edema (swelling) or macular ischemia (blood vessels closing leading to lack of blood and oxygen to the retina), vision is affected.

2.  Proliferative (PDR)

PDR is when abnormal new blood vessels (neovascularization) begin growing on the retina or optic nerve. The new blood vessels form due to ischemia, or lack of adequate blood flow. PDR causes more severe vision loss than NPDR because it can affect both central and peripheral vision.  

What causes diabetic retinopathy?

NPDR and PDR form due to high blood sugar levels and long standing blood sugar fluctuations. PDR causes visual loss in the following ways: 
  • eye hemorrhaging (bleeding) 
  • retinal detachment (first distortion, then visual loss)
  • neovascular glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve)

Diagnosing diabetic retinopathy

During your complete eye exam your retina is thoroughly examined looking for these types of changes to the blood vessels and retina.

Treating diabetic retinopathy

A retina specialist can treat bleeding vessels with a laser or eye injections.

What can I do?

All patients with diabetes need to see an eye care professional at least once a year for a complete dilated eye exam.
In the 21st century, visual loss from diabetes is largely preventable. Excellent blood sugar control is the best defense against diabetic retinopathy. Early detection and treatment are essential.

Sources: WebMD.com, American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Optometric Association. For further reading, visit www.webmd.com, www.aoa.org.
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