Diabetic retinopathy is damage to the eye's retina that occurs from complications of long term diabetes resulting in damage to the blood vessels of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.
People with both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are at risk for this condition. According to the National Eye Institute, up to 45% of adults diagnosed with diabetes in the United States have some degree of diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in working-age Americans.
Diabetics are often likely to develop retinopathy due to the fact that their bodies cannot use or store sugar properly. Consequently, when the blood sugar gets too high, it can damage the blood vessels in the eyes leading to diabetic retinopathy. In fact, the longer someone has diabetes, the more likely they are to develop diabetic retinopathy.
Take prevention seriously. Start by scheduling yearly eye exams and controlling your blood sugar level.
Diabetic Retinopathy Symptoms and Signs
Everyone who has diabetes is at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy however, not all diabetics actually do develop it. In its early stages, diabetics may not notice any change in vision, but it can eventually lead to the sight-threatening form of the disease later on.
A person can have diabetic retinopathy and not know it. So, it is very important that everyone with diabetes have regular eye exams.
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy may include:
- Blindness, vision loss
- Blurred vision
- Floaters (spots floating in your vision)
- Shadows or missing areas of vision
- Dark streaks or a red film that blocks your vision
- Poor night vision
Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes.
Double vision can be a sign of diabetic retinopathy. It occurs when the nerves controlling the eye muscles are affected. If you experience any of these signs, see your eye doctor immediately. Otherwise, those with diabetes should see an eye doctor at least once a year for a dilated eye exam.
Diabetic Retinopathy Causes
Changes in blood sugar levels increase the risk of diabetic retinopathy. When the body doesn't use sugar properly it causes the blood sugar level to be too high. Too much sugar in the blood can damage the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina.
High blood sugar can damage blood vessels in the retina. When blood vessels are damaged, they can leak fluid or bleed, causing the retina to swell and form deposits.
Although diabetics usually don't develop diabetic retinopathy until they have had diabetes for at least ten years, it is not wise to wait that long to have an eye exam.
Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment
The possibility of early detection is why it is so important for diabetics to have a dilated eye exam at least once a year. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 95 percent of those with significant diabetic retinopathy can avoid substantial vision loss if they are treated in time.
While treatment usually does not reverse damage that has already occurred, it will keep the disease from getting worse.
Diabetic retinopathy can also be treated with laser photocoagulation which seals off leaking blood vessels and destroys new growth. Since the retina doesn't contain nerve endings, laser photocoagulation does not cause pain.
If diabetic retinopathy has caused a cataract to form, it can be corrected surgically.
Fortunately, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by taking good care of yourself. Tight control of blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol is very important for preventing diabetic retinopathy.
- Have an eye exam once a year
- Follow your doctor's instructions
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- Keep blood sugar under control
- Monitor blood pressure/keep it under control
A retinal detachment is a serious and sight-threatening event, occurring when there is a separation of the light sensitive membrane in the back of the eye (retina) from its supporting layers. The retina cannot function when these layers are detached, and unless it is reattached soon, permanent vision loss may result.
Retinal Detachment Symptoms and Signs
Suddenly noticing spots, floaters and flashes of light, may be the warning signs of retinal detachment. The vision may become blurry or poor vision may occur. Seeing a shadow or a curtain coming down from the top of the eye across your field of vision or across from the side may also be a sign. These signs can occur gradually as the retina pulls away from the supportive tissue. They may also occur suddenly if the retina detaches immediately.
No pain is associated with retinal detachment. Consult your doctor right way if you experience any of the signs. Immediate treatment increases the odds of regaining lost vision.
Retinal Detachments Causes
Retinal detachment often occurs on its own without an underlying cause. However, it may also be caused by trauma, diabetes, an inflammatory disorder. Sometimes it may be caused by a related condition called posterior vitreous detachment.
An injury to the eye or face can sometimes cause a detached retina, as can very high levels of nearsightedness. Extremely nearsighted people have longer eyeballs with thinner retinas that are more prone to detaching.
Cataract surgery, tumors, eye disease and systemic diseases such as diabetes and sickle cell disease may also cause retinal detachments.
Treatment for Retinal Detachment
A detached retina must be reattached by an eye surgeon. Laser photocoagulation may be used to as a method of sealing off the tears or holes in the retina that cause leaking blood vessels and destroy new blood vessel growth.
An ophthalmologist may inject silicone oil into the eye to keep the detached retina in place.
A similar treatment is pneumatic retinopexy. This technique is used in combination with the injection of a gas bubble to float the retina back in place followed by laser surgery to permanently fix it in place. This is often done in the office. More extensive detachments may require surgery in the operating room.
Sometimes vision lost by a retinal detachment will come back after treatment. The sooner the retina is reattached, the better the chances of regaining vision.