If you have diabetes mellitus, your body does not use and store sugar properly. High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels in the retina, the back lining of the eye. The retina is like the film in an old camera. Therefore, any damage to the retina can adversely affect vision. The damage to retinal blood vessels is referred to as diabetic retinopathy.
There are two types of diabetic retinopathy:
NPDR is an early stage of diabetic retinopathy. Many people with diabetes have mild NPDR, which usually does not affect vision. However, there are two forms of NPDR that can cause vision loss:
PDR is present when abnormal new vessels (neovascularization) begin growing on the surface of the retina. PDR may cause more severe vision loss than NPDR because it can affect both central and peripheral vision. The new, abnormal blood vessels do not resupply the retina with normal blood flow. The new vessels can bleed and cause scar tissue which can adversely affect retinal function. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy causes visual loss in the following ways:
A Marietta Eye Clinic physician will dilate your eyes and look inside at the retina with an instrument called an ophthalmoscope. If diabetic retinopathy is found, you may undergo a special test called a flourescein angiography to find out if you need treatment. In this test, a dye is injected into your arm and photos of your eye are taken to see where the retinal vessels are leaking.
The best treatment is to prevent the development of retinopathy as much as possible. Strict control of your blood sugar will significantly reduce the long-term risk of vision loss from diabetic retinopathy. Other treatments include:
If you have diabetes, it is important to know that with improved methods of diagnosis and treatment only a small percentage of people who develop retinopathy have serious vision problems. Early detection of diabetic retinopathy is the best protection against loss of vision. You can significantly lower your risk of vision loss by maintaining strict control of your blood sugar and visiting your ophthalmologist regularly.
People with diabetes should schedule examinations at least once a year. More frequent eye exams may be necessary after a diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy has been made. Pregnant women with diabetes should schedule an appointment during the first trimester because retinopathy can progress quickly during pregnancy.
When it comes to your eyes, nothing beats a face-to-face consultation with one of our eye doctors. Request an appointment to meet with one of our specialists.