What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Type 1 or 2 diabetes impacts all aspects of the body, including vision. Because of high sugar levels and high blood pressure associated with diabetes, over time, the condition begins to weaken the small blood vessels in the retina, diminishing vision and lowering the overall health of the eye. This condition usually affects both eyes.
Diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness, so early intervention is even more important to slow or stop vision loss. Vance Thompson Vision serves patients with world-class expertise to help them navigate diabetic retinopathy.
Types of Diabetic Retinopathy
When blood vessels in the eye are damaged, blood supply is reduced. The loss of blood causes the body to produce new blood vessels which are prone to breaking and leakage. These breaks may scar, causing vision loss.
Patients with diabetic retinopathy most commonly experience:
- Blurry or distorted vision
- Decreased visual acuity (sharpness of vision)
- Muted colors
- Loss of vision
There are two types of diabetic retinopathy: non-proliferative and proliferative.
Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
This type happens when an increase in blood supply to the blood vessels in the retina results in leaks, causing the retina to swell. This is the early stage of diabetic retinopathy and may also be called “background diabetic retinopathy.”
Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
This type occurs when blood vessels grow in and on top of the retina. These blood vessels are weaker than typical vessels, and when they break, bleeding into the eye occurs. This vitreous hemorrhage results in floaters and potential vision loss and needs to be treated surgically.
The symptoms, causes, and treatments for each condition vary, so your doctor will tailor a treatment plan to your specific case. Like many conditions, early intervention is crucial for successful treatment.
Treatments for Diabetic Retinopathy
Managing diabetic retinopathy begins with you. Maintaining a healthy diet and blood sugar and keeping blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol within normal ranges is vital for preserving your vision.
To further treat this condition, your ophthalmologist may recommend injections, lasers, surgery, or a combination of those three. Patients with diabetic retinopathy should expect to visit their doctor frequently.
Injecting medicines, usually steroids, directly into the eye’s fluid helps control production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein commonly over-produced in diabetic retinopathy that causes unstable blood vessels to grow, and because of their instability, these vessels often leak.
For some patients, a laser may be used to prevent further leaking of blood vessels, prevent growth of new abnormal blood vessels, and reduce swelling.
If bleeding and vision loss from diabetic retinopathy progresses, vitrectomy surgery is used to address symptoms of the condition.
Diabetic retinopathy cannot be cured, but consistent management should help maintain your vision.