If you are suffering from Diabetes then you probably know that your body cannot use or store sugar properly. When the blood sugar level becomes too high, it can damage the blood vessels in eyes, developing into a condition known as Diabetic Retinopathy.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic Retinopathy is a complicated stage of Diabetes that can lead to blindness. It occurs when the tiny blood vessels are damaged inside the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.
In later stages, the disease may lead to growth of new blood vessels over the retina. The new blood vessels can cause scar tissue to develop, which can pull the retina away from the back of the eye. This is known as ‘Retinal Detachment’, and it can lead to blindness if left untreated. In addition, abnormal blood vessels can grow on the iris, and can cause Glaucoma.
People suffering from Diabetic Retinopathy, at first may not notice any changes in their vision. Over the time, Diabetic Retinopathy worsens and can cause complete loss of vision, and it usually affects both the eyes.
Different Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy:
It Comprises of Four Stages:
1. Mild Non-proliferate Retinopathy: At this phase, Micro aneurysms occur. These are the earliest clinically visible changes of Diabetic Retinopathy. They are localized capillary dilatations that are usually saccular (round), and appear as small red dots. They do not affect vision and are one of the features of background Diabetic Retinopathy.
2. Moderate Non-proliferate Retinopathy: As the disease progresses, some blood vessels that nourish the retina are blocked.
3. Severe Non-proliferate Retinopathy: Many more blood vessels are blocked, depriving several areas of the retina with blood supply. Those areas of the retina send signals to the body to grow new blood vessels for nourishment.
4. Proliferate Retinopathy: At this advanced stage, the signals sent by the retina for nourishment trigger the growth of new blood vessels. This condition is called Proliferate Retinopathy. These new blood vessels are abnormal and fragile, and grow along the retina and surface of the clear, vitreous gel that fills the inside of the eye.
Who are at the Risk of Developing Diabetic Retinopathy?
People with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes are at the greatest risk. They should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam done at least once a year.
Even pregnant women with Diabetic Retinopathy may face problems.
What are the Symptoms and Signs of Diabetic Retinopathy?
1.Macula Edema: A condition when it becomes difficult to read or do close work. This also indicates that fluid can leak into the center of the macula, the part of the eye where sharp, straight-ahead vision occurs. The fluid makes the macula swell, blurring vision. This state is known as Macular Edema.
2. Double Vision: It occurs when the nerves controlling the eye muscles are affected.
Diabetic retinopathy often has no early warning signs. Don’t wait for symptoms. Be sure to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.
How are Macular Edema and Diabetic Retinopathy detected?
Macular Edema and Diabetic Retinopathy are detected during a comprehensive eye exam that includes:
Visual Acuity test: This is an eye chart test which measures how well a patient sees from various distances.
Dilated eye exam: Drops are put in eyes to widen, or dilate, the pupils. Eye care professional uses a special magnifying lens to examine the retina and optic nerve for signs of damage and other eye problems. After the test, close-up vision may remain blurred for several hours.
Tonometry: An instrument which measures the pressure inside the eye.
How is Macular Edema treated?
Macular Edema is treated with Focal Laser Surgery. Several hundred small laser burns are placed on the areas of retinal leakage surrounding the macula. These burns slow the leakage of fluid and reduce the amount of fluid in the retina. The surgery is usually completed in one session.
A patient may need focal laser surgery more than once to control the leaking fluid.
Focal laser treatment stabilizes vision. It reduces the risk of vision loss by 50 percent.
How is Diabetic Retinopathy treated?
Diabetic Retinopathy can be treated with Laser Photocoagulation to seal off leaking blood vessels and destroy new growth. Laser photocoagulation doesn’t cause pain, because the retina does not have nerve endings.
In some patients, blood leaks into the vitreous humor and clouds vision. The eye doctor may choose to simply wait to see if the clouding will dissipate on its own, a period called “watchful waiting”. A procedure called a Vitrectomy removes blood that has leaked into the vitreous humor. The body gradually replaces lost vitreous humor, and vision improves.
Is Scatter Laser treatment and Vitrectomy effective in treating Diabetic Retinopathy?
Yes. Both treatments are very effective in reducing loss of vision. People with proliferative retinopathy have less than a five percent chance of becoming blind within five years when they get timely and appropriate treatment. Although both treatments have high success rates, they do not cure Diabetic Retinopathy.
What is the Latest Research Done?
The National Eye Institute (NEI) is conducting and supporting research that seeks better ways to detect, treat, and prevent vision loss in people afflicted with Diabetes. This research is conducted through studies in the laboratory and with patients.
Researchers are investigating on drugs that may stop the retina from sending signals to the body to grow new blood vessels. Hopefully in the near future these drugs may help people control Diabetic Retinopathy and reduce the need for Laser surgery.
How to Take Care of Your Eyes?
1. Keep your blood sugar under good control.
2. Monitor your blood pressure and keep it under good control, or seek appropriate care.
3. Maintain a healthy diet.
4. Exercise regularly.
5. Follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter.