Diabetic retinopathy is one of the numerous complications of diabetes. Whether what you have is type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you are at risk of developing this eye disease which can lead to decreased eyesight and even blindness. This is especially true if your blood sugar is left uncontrolled for a long period of time.
Having regular eye exams is very important if you have been diagnosed by your doctor with diabetes in order to monitor the development of diabetic retinopathy. The progression of the said eye disease may be slowed down by managing your diabetes. In case it advances, there are a few treatments available for it.
Cause and Types
Increased blood sugar levels for a long period of time can damage the blood vessels. When the ones supplying blood to the retina (consisting of light-sensitive cells that send messages from your eyes to the brain) gets damaged, blood getting to the retina gets reduced. Your body will try to create newer blood vessels that are weak and can cause blood to leak into the retina. Sometimes they form scar tissue that can lead to loss of vision.
By the way, there are different types of diabetic retinopathy, depending on whether diabetes causes only blood leakage or the formation of abnormal blood vessels. They are:
- Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy or NPDR – Also sometimes known as background retinopathy, NPDR is the early stage of diabetic retinopathy. In here, blood leaks into the eye because of damaged blood vessels. In case new blood vessels are formed, NPDR progresses to the other type of diabetic retinopathy.
- Proliferative diabetic neuropathy or PDR – This type of diabetic retinopathy got its name from the fact that blood vessels in the eyes proliferate. However, the new blood vessels tend to be abnormal, usually growing right in the center of the eyes, causing problems with the vision.
During the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, you may actually encounter no symptom. It is only when there’s significant damage to the structure of your eyes when symptoms show up. When they do appear, they are usually observed in both eyes. The following are some of the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy:
- Eye pain and/or redness
- An increase in the number floaters
- Having trouble seeing at night
- Trouble telling apart different colors
- Blurring of vision or patchy vision
- Loss of sight in the center of your field of vision
- Sudden inability to see
Treatment for diabetic retinopathy in its early stages, unfortunately, is limited. Since it usually presents no symptoms, it may progress until such time that the eye disease makes its presence known through the various symptoms tackled earlier. Slowing down the progression of diabetic retinopathy can be done by having your diabetes managed.
In case your diabetic retinopathy advances, there are a few different treatment options available. The best one for you will be based upon the type of your diabetic retinopathy as well as its severity. For instance, laser may be used to seal damaged blood vessels that leak blood into the eyes. Then there is also the so-called vitrectomy, which is the surgical removal of the cloudy fluid as well as scar tissue in the eye.
Experts say that diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of blindness in the US. Also, it’s the most common eye disease among individuals with diabetes. It’s therefore important for someone who has diabetes to go through regular eye exams in order to ward off its complications.
To prevent diabetic retinopathy from striking or to keep it from progressing, it is very important to control your blood sugar levels. The same is true with your blood pressure and cholesterol. If you are a smoker, you should quit cigarette smoking because it can damage your blood vessels.