Over 25% of diabetics have some form of Diabetic Retinopathy.
The retina in your eye is just like any other part of your body, it needs to be supplied with blood and nutrients to remain healthy. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the blood vessels that supply blood to the retina deteriorate due to a complication of diabetes.
Diabetes can weaken the blood vessels behind your eyes, causing them to leak fluid and blood, and fail to provide the nutrients necessary for a healthy retina. Left untreated, retinopathy can result in severe visual loss, including blindness. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among adults with diabetes. The risk of development increases with age and how long a person has been diagnosed with diabetes.
Excellent control of blood sugar will dramatically reduce the risk of developing retinopathy or other serious diabetic problems.
The most important thing to note is; there is no pain associated with diabetic retinopathy. Without regular eye exams, a diabetic patient can develop this disease and not even realize it. Although some patients may experience blurred vision quickly, it often takes a long progression, or a catastrophic event, before a patient realizes the issue.
The following three symptoms are the most common in diabetic retinopathy patients:
- Retinal swelling may cause blurred vision and distortion.
- Objects may look smaller or larger than normal.
- Floaters may appear due to the bleeding from the retina.
Treatments for Diabetic Retinopathy
Treatment of diabetic retinopathy depends on the location of the disease and the degree of damage to the retina. Treatment may not be required, but in severe cases laser treatments are recommended to halt further progression of the disease. If retinopathy occurs only in the peripheral retina, careful monitoring of the disease may be all that is necessary. When retinopathy affects the central vision, laser treatment is usually required.
Lasers may be used to seal blood vessels that have leaked. Laser treatment may not halt the disease entirely, but can reduce further vision loss by sealing the leaking blood vessels. At the advanced stages, lasers may be used to curtail the growth of new, abnormal blood vessels. Laser treatments, and other treatments of advanced diabetic retinopathy, are usually performed on an outpatient basis.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
Early diagnosis and treatment are vital to preventing visual loss from diabetic retinopathy. If the disease is detected early, and managed diligently, its more sight-damaging stages can be arrested or slowed. Even when no symptoms are noticeable, the diabetic patient should undergo frequent eye examinations (at least once a year). With careful monitoring, treatment of diabetic retinopathy can begin before sight is affected.
Colorado Ophthalmology Associates would like all diabetic patients to know that we work hard to provide the best care for your eyes. Many people who are diagnosed with diabetes are not told of the dangers related to the eyes. Early attention to these symptoms can save your vision.
If you would like to have your eyes examined for diabetic eye disease, please call us for an appointment at 303-320-1777 or book your appointment online.