Diabetic Eye Disease
What is the most common eye disease that affects diabetic patients?
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease. It is the leading cause of blindness in adults in the United States.
What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is a disease that affects the blood vessels of the retina, the nerve tissue in the eye that processes light and vision. Elevated blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels inside the eye. The damaged blood vessels can bleed, leak fluids, or stop carrying blood to the eye. These blood vessel changes cause damage to the retina and other tissues within the eye and can lead to vision loss and blindness.
What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?
Often there are no symptoms during the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. In fact, it is possible for vision to remain fairly normal even as serious, sometimes permanent damage is taking place. Eventually decreased or blurry vision will be present as damage to the eye continues. There is typically no pain with diabetic retinopathy.
How is diabetic retinopathy detected?
Diabetic retinopathy can be diagnosed during your comprehensive dilated eye exam. Since there are often very few symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, patients cannot be certain that their eyes are healthy just because they are seeing well. All diabetics should be examined at least once per year by their eye doctor. Sometimes, specialized tests to further examine the retina are performed at the time of your exam.
Can diabetic retinopathy be prevented?
The most effective way to prevent diabetic retinopathy is by maintaining good diabetic control through management of your blood sugar levels. Stopping tobacco use and controlling other medical problems such as high blood pressure and cholesterol can also lower your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.
How is diabetic retinopathy treated?
Early diabetic retinopathy does not always need treatment. Often, improving diabetic control can slow or reverse the ocular changes caused by diabetes. More advanced levels of retinopathy may need treatment. There are three primary treatments for diabetic retinopathy:
There are different types of laser treatments that are used to treat various levels of diabetic retinopathy. These treatments do not require any incisions on the eye, and are relatively pain free.
Topical or injected medications are often used to treat diabetic retinopathy. These treatments may be combined with laser or surgery depending on the degree and type of diabetic involvement.
Surgery is typically reserved for more advanced or aggressive cases of diabetic retinopathy. Surgery usually consists of removal of blood and scar tissue that is unable to be treated with more conservative treatments. Laser treatments are often done at the time of surgery as well.