What is Diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is retinopathy (damage to the retina) caused by complications of diabetes mellitus, which can eventually lead to blindness. The longer a person has diabetes, the higher their chances of developing diabetic retinopathy. Retinopathy is also more likely to occur earlier and be more severe if your diabetes has been poorly controlled.
Small blood vessels such as those in the eye are especially vulnerable to poor blood sugar (blood glucose) control. An over-accumulation of glucose and/or fructose damages the tiny blood vessels in the retina. Also an elevated oxidative stress plays an important role in progression of diabetic retinopathy.
There are two types or stages of diabetic retinopathy – non-proliferative and proliferative.
What are the symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy often has no early warning signs. Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:
- Blurred vision and slow vision loss over time
- Floaters i.e spots, threads, or fragments of cobwebs, which float slowly before the eyes
- Shadows or missing areas of vision
- Trouble seeing at night
Who is at risk of diabetic retinopathy?
All people with diabetes mellitus are at risk – those with Type I diabetes (juvenile onset) and those with Type II diabetes (adult onset). The longer a person has diabetes, the higher the risk of developing some ocular problem. During pregnancy, diabetic retinopathy may also be a problem for women with diabetes. It is recommended that all pregnant women with diabetes have dilated eye examinations each trimester to protect their vision. Patients having complications of diabetes especially kidney involvement are at high risk of retinopathy.
How to prevent diabetic retinopathy?
As diabetic retinopathy has no early warning signs, frequent eye check up is important if you are a diabetic. Tight control of blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol is very important to prevent diabetic retinopathy. Stop smoking. If you are diabetic and beginning a new exercise program or planning to get pregnant, have your eyes examined. Avoid resistance or high-impact exercises, which can strain already weakened blood vessels in the eyes.
What is the treatment of diabetic retinopathy?
People with the earlier form (non-proliferative) of diabetic retinopathy may not need surgical intervention. Treatment like antioxidant nutrient supplementation usually does not reverse damage that has already occurred but can help to keep the disease from getting worse. Several procedures or surgeries are the main treatment for diabetic retinopathy. Laser eye surgery creates small burns in the retina where there are abnormal blood vessels. This process is called photocoagulation. It is used to keep vessels from leaking or to get rid of abnormal, fragile vessels.