Diabetic Eye Disease
What is diabetic eye disease?
Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may face. All can cause severe vision loss or even blindness.
Diabetic eye disease may include:
What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina.
In some, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In others, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy retina is necessary for good vision.
What are the stages of diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy has four stages:
1. Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy. At this earliest stage, small areas of balloon-like swelling in the retina’s tiny blood vessels develop.
2. Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy. Some blood vessels that nourish the retina are blocked.
3. Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy. Many more blood vessels are blocked, depriving several areas of the retina of their blood supply. These areas of the retina send signals to the body to grow new blood vessels.
4. Proliferative Retinopathy. At this advanced stage, the signals sent by the retina for nourishment trigger the growth of new blood vessels. These new blood vessels are abnormal and fragile. If they leak blood, severe vision loss and even blindness can result.
How does diabetic retinopathy cause vision loss?
1. Fragile, abnormal blood vessels can develop and leak blood into the center of the eye, blurring vision.
2. Fluid can leak into the center of the macula, the part of the eye where sharp, straight-ahead vision occurs. The fluid makes the macula swell, blurring vision. This condition is called macular edema.
Who is at risk for diabetic retinopathy?
All people with diabetes–both type 1 and type 2–are at risk. The longer someone has diabetes, the more likely he or she will get diabetic retinopathy.
During pregnancy, diabetic retinopathy may be a problem for women with diabetes. Every diabetic pregnant woman should have a comprehensive eye exam as soon as possible.
What can I do to protect my vision?
If you have diabetes get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year
If you have diabetic retinopathy, you may need an eye exam more often. People can reduce their risk of blindness by 95 % with timely treatment and appropriate follow-up care.
Does diabetic retinopathy have any symptoms?
There are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease.
Blurred vision may occur when the macula swells from leaking fluid. This condition is called macular edema.
If new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina, they can bleed into the eye and block vision. You may need treatment before more serious bleeding occurs.
How are diabetic retinopathy and macular edema detected?
Diabetic retinopathy and macular edema are detected during a comprehensive eye exam at your eye doctor’s clinic.
Your eye care professional may suggest a fluorescein angiogram. The test allows your eye care professional to identify any leaking blood vessels.
How is diabetic retinopathy treated?
Proliferative retinopathy is treated with laser surgery. This is called scatter laser treatment.
If the bleeding is severe, you may need a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy.
Macular edema is treated with laser surgery to stabilize vision. This is called focal laser treatment.
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