What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of the retina that can occur due to diabetes. The retina is the layer of tissue in the eye that contains light-sensitive cells that convert light into signals that the brain can process into images. Tiny blood vessels are located in the front of the retina, which provide nourishment to the retina. If these blood vessels become damaged due to diabetes, retinal tissue can become inflamed and fluid and blood can leak.
The four stages of diabetic retinopathy are: mild nonproliferative retinopathy, moderate nonproliferative retinopathy, severe nonproliferative retinopathy, and proliferative diabetic retinopathy. In advanced stages, the retina can experience cell loss and scar tissue can form. Diabetic retinopathy can be a serious problem and can potentially lead to a detached retina and/or vision loss.
The Connection Between Diabetes and Blood Vessel in the Eyes
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that can lead to high glucose (sugar) levels in the blood. Fluctuations in blood sugar levels—specifically chronically high blood sugar—can cause retinal blood vessels to deteriorate. Damage to the blood vessels increases the risk of hemorrhaging. Diabetic retinopathy typically affects both eyes.
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
The symptoms of diabetic retinopathy are often progressive, appearing over time. Symptoms include:
- Floaters (deposits within the eye’s vitreous that create moving specks in the field of vision)
- Double vision
- Impaired sight (clouded vision)
Detection and Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy
The objective of an exam is to look for any damage and changes in the lens.During an eyes exam, an eye doctor will dilate (enlarge) the pupils in order to view the retina. This is done with eye drops. Using a special instrument, the eye doctor will then look for abnormalities in the retina, including swelling, microaneurysms (bleeding), and fluid leakage. In addition, visual acuity will be tested with an eye chart exam.
Although there is no cure for diabetic retinopathy, scatter laser treatment (referred to as photocoagulation) can help prevent vision loss for those in later stages (stage 3 or 4). During the treatment, small burns are made in areas of the retina. The purpose of the burns is to cause the blood vessels to contract and shrink. Often more than one session is required. A vitrectomy, a surgery to remove vitreous gel in the eye, may also be performed to improve vision.
Eye Examination at Beach Eye, Huntington Beach, CA
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it is extremely important to have your eyes examined regularly by an expert. At Beach Eye Medical Group, we specialize in treating retinal and eye disease, including ocular problems associated with medical conditions such as diabetes. The case for scheduling a comprehensive eye exam once a year is strong:
- Symptoms may not be immediately apparent, so regular monitoring is necessary.
- The risk of diabetic eye disease increases with time.
- Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in adults with diabetes.
- Early detection can help protect against irreversible vision loss.
Contact our office to schedule your exam with our eye care specialist Dr. Semaan.