Understanding Diabetic Retinopathy and the Importance of a Diabetic Eye Exam
If you have diabetes, you know how important it is to measure your blood sugar day by day. Your blood sugar levels also have a significant impact on your blood pressure, which can skyrocket if you eat excessively sugary, unhealthy foods.
Your diabetes can also lead to diabetic retinopathy, an eye condition. Here’s everything you need to know about diabetic retinopathy, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy only occurs in those who already have diabetes. With this condition, the retina becomes impaired. The retina’s tissue contains blood vessels. Like blood vessels in other parts of the body, these can become swollen and inflamed from an increase in blood pressure.
You can either have early diabetic retinopathy or advanced diabetic retinopathy. The early form of this condition means the blood vessels in the retina have failed to regenerate. The current blood vessels may spray blood outside of the retina, closing off after doing so.
Advanced diabetic retinopathy is the more serious of the two. With this, the vitreous in the eye is affected as blood vessels develop in places they’re not supposed to. This puts even more pressure on the eye.
What Causes It?
Anyone with diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy. Better control of one's diabetes decreases the risks for diabetic retinopathy. The longer that one lives with diabetes the greater the risk is. A person with Type 1 diabetes is also more at risk. Photocoagulation or focal laser treatment, which controls the amount of fluid and blood, preventing this from getting into other parts of the eye.
What Are the Symptoms?
If you have this condition, you may notice empty or dark vision spots, a lack of color vision, subtle changes in vision quality, blurry vision, and/or floaters. Your vision will also gradually decrease.
That said, many patients are asymptomatic until their diabetic retinopathy advances.
Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment
If you have any of the above symptoms, it’s best to schedule an appointment with an optometrist right away. It’s important to administer diabetic retinopathy treatment early before the condition becomes advanced diabetic retinopathy. If you already have advanced diabetic retinopathy, you can still receive treatment.
For those with early diabetic retinopathy, your optometrist may recommend seeing an endocrinologist, or diabetes specialist. This specialist will suggest closely monitoring blood sugar.
In more serious cases, surgery is the only treatment. There are three procedures often used to treat advanced diabetic retinopathy:
Vitrectomy, where the surgeon will reduce scar tissue and blood from the retina and vitreous.
Panretinal photocoagulation or scatter laser treatment, where lasers reduce the size of the growing blood vessels.
Photocoagulation or focal laser treatment, which controls the amount of fluid and blood, preventing this from getting into other parts of the eye. This surgery also uses lasers.
About Eyes on Henry, Your Optometrist in Spartanburg
If you have diabetic retinopathy and have not had a recent exam, call us at Eyes on Henry, your optometrists in Spartanburg. Our other services include senior eye care, cataract management, vision correction with glasses and contracts, and glaucoma management.
To learn more or schedule an appointment today, call us at 864-585-0208 or visit us at 399 East Henry Street near downtown Spartanburg.