Millions of Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes is a condition in which the body cannot properly regulate blood sugar levels, and the condition has the potential to affect many organs throughout the body. Those who have been diagnosed with diabetes are at risk for developing a vision-threatening condition known as diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy can occur when the effects of diabetes cause changes to the retina, the sensory tissue inside the eye. If left untreated, this disease can lead to vision loss, and is one of the leading causes of acquired blindness in our country. However, vision loss can be prevented if diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed early and properly managed. Continue reading to learn more about how diabetes can affect vision.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetes results in elevated and poorly regulated blood sugar levels. Over time, this causes damage to blood vessels throughout the body. The small blood vessels that circulate throughout the retina are particularly susceptible to damage due to diabetes. When retinal vessels have been damaged due to diabetes, they can become weak, allowing blood and proteins to leak into the surrounding retinal tissue. In mild diabetic retinopathy, only small amounts of blood leak into the retina, leaving tiny hemorrhages that are visible during a dilated eye examination. In more severe forms of diabetic retinopathy, areas of the retina can lose blood flow and become ischemic, or proteins can leak out of the blood vessels and cause areas of retinal swelling. If the swelling occurs in the area of the retina that is responsible for our central vision, known as the macula, the condition becomes more serious and vision changes may occur. In the most severe cases of diabetic retinopathy, the altered blood flow in retinal vessels causes the formation of new, weak vessels. These new vessels, known as retinal neovascularization, can cause a heap of problems, including a potential retinal detachment or a large intraocular hemorrhage.
How to Treat Diabetic Retinopathy
The treatment for diabetic retinopathy depends on the severity of the case. In some cases of mild diabetic retinopathy, no immediate action is required and the condition only needs to be monitored appropriately. In cases where significant retinopathy has occurred, more frequent follow up or additional testing may be warranted. And in the most severe cases, where significant retinal swelling has occurred or a threat to vision is present, treatments options such as a laser procedure or intraocular injections may be necessary.
Preventing Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy
Occasionally diabetic retinopathy causes blurred vision, central distortions, or other visual changes. However, in many cases, the condition can be occurring with no noticeable symptoms. For this reason, it is important for diabetics to receive a thorough eye examination every year, which can help with early diagnosis of any diabetic retinopathy that may be present. Beyond receiving an annual eye examination, it is important for diabetics to maintain proper control of their blood glucose levels. The main contributing factors in developing diabetic retinopathy are how well blood sugar is controlled, and how long diabetes has been affecting blood vessels. Close communication with a primary care doctor or endocrinologist, along with strict blood glucose control via diet, exercise, and the proper medications, can significantly lower the risk of vision loss from diabetic retinopathy.
Our eye doctors and staff at EyeDocs Family Eye Care excel in providing the highest quality eye exams for diabetes and diabetic retinopathy for you and your family. Call us at 937-770-1265 or schedule an eye exam appointment online. Our optometrists provide the highest quality eye care services in the Brookeville, OH 45309 area.
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430 Arlington Rd. Suite B | Brookville, OH 45309 | 937-770-1265