Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetes is associated with several eye diseases, such as cataracts and glaucoma. However, the most common complication of type 1 or 2 diabetes is an eye condition called diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetes is a very serious condition that affects hundreds of thousands of people every year, globally. A person with diabetes suffers from higher than healthy blood sugar levels as a result of the body's inability to either produce sufficient insulin or to properly absorb the insulin being produced.
Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that occurs when the blood vessels in the back of the eye become more abundant, leak fluid, and bleed as a complication of diabetes. The longer a person is diabetic, the higher their chance of developing diabetic retinopathy.
At first, diabetic retinopathy may have no symptoms or cause only mild vision problems. As time goes by, it can potentially lead to vision loss.
Because the early stages of this condition may not produce any symptoms, it is vital that patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes undergo regular comprehensive dilated eye exams in order to accurately diagnose diabetic retinopathy. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, contact Child & Family Eye Care in The Woodlands today.
What are the Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy?
There are two stages of diabetic retinopathy: non-proliferative and proliferative retinopathy. In the early, non-proliferative stages, symptoms may be very minimal or non-existent.
In proliferative retinopathy, there may be noticeable vision changes that can indicate significant deterioration of eye health, such as diabetic macular edema, the swelling of the macula and the most common cause of vision loss in those with diabetic retinopathy. Some of these symptoms include:
- Vision loss
- Empty or dark areas in your vision
- Fluctuating vision
- Spots or dark strings floating in your vision (floaters)
- Blurred vision
- Impaired color vision
What Causes Diabetic Retinopathy?
When blood sugar levels run too high, small blood vessels throughout the body can become damaged, including the blood vessels in the retina (the light-sensitive lining in the back of the eye). The sugar in the blood blocks the blood cells from passing through the tiny blood vessels in the eye, causing them to leak fluid or bleed. The body then regenerates new blood vessels to compensate for the damaged ones in a process called “proliferation,” but these new blood vessels may also bleed or leak easily.
Who Is at Risk of Developing Diabetic Retinopathy?
There are several risk factors that can heighten one’s risk of developing diabetic retinopathy:
- Being of African-American, Hispanic, or Native American descent
- Duration of diabetes
- Poor control of blood sugar levels
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Being pregnant
- Tobacco smoking
Treating Diabetic Retinopathy
Whether you have type 1, type 2, or even just gestational diabetes, you are at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. The longer you have had the disease, the greater the risk. It is therefore essential to keep your blood sugar levels under control to prevent vision loss.
Treating diabetic retinopathy can include vitrectomy, replacing the inner gel-like substance that supports the eye structure, and laser surgery.