Who Is at Risk for Diabetic Retinopathy?
The Leading Cause of Blindness
Specialists Serving Midland, Odessa, Pecos & San Angelo, TX
What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic Retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is caused by the damage diabetes does to the blood vessels of the retina. Blood vessels develop aneurysms (weak spots in the wall of the vessels) and begin to leak fluid resulting in swelling of the tissue and decreased vision. In the more advanced stage of the disease abnormal blood vessels begin to grow on the surface of the retina, causing multiple problems. Decreased vision is caused by swelling or bleeding in the retina from the weak blood vessel walls or bleeding into the vitreous (gel like substance in the eye) that is caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels that have broken.
All people with diabetes, type I and type II, are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. A person could have swelling or abnormal blood vessel growth without knowing it until it is too late to save the vision with treatment. That is why dilated eye exams at least once a year are so important. The earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the better your chances are of retaining your vision. Keeping blood sugar below 150 will help decrease your risk of needing treatment but the longer you have the disease the higher the risk.
What Happens If I Am Positive for Diabetic Retinopathy?
If you are found on examination to be positive for diabetic retinopathy (swelling) or Proliferative disease (abnormal blood vessel growth) you will require testing to pinpoint the origin of the leakage and all the abnormal blood vessel growth, Laser treatment can be performed in the office to seal the leakage and to cauterize the blood vessels. Over the next few months, the swelling will go away and the blood vessels will regress (dry up).
If you have the advanced form of the disease and abnormal blood vessels break and begin bleeding into the eye, an ultrasound will be performed to make sure you have not had a retinal detachment. If there is no detachment you will be asked to not bend at the waist, stop any strenuous activity, and sleep on 3 or 4 pillows at night or sitting up in a recliner. This will help the hemorrhage to settle to the bottom of the eye and allow the surgeon to see into the eye and place laser treatment. If the hemorrhage does not go away in 2 to 4 months then surgery may be considered to remove the blood. During the surgery, called a Vitrectomy, Laser treatment will be delivered to the eye to cauterize the abnormal blood vessels.
It is very common in diabetics for scar tissue to form due to the abnormal blood vessels. This is can cause traction, or pulling, on the retina and is a very common cause of hemorrhage in the eye or retina detachment. Surgery would be required in both cases to resolve the problem. Damage to the blood vessels in the retina from diabetes can build up over the course of many years and can lead to poor circulation.
What Can I Do?
If you or a loved one has diabetes, make sure that they have annual dilated eye exams. If diabetic retinopathy, unfortunately, does occur, early treatment can decrease the chances of you or a loved one losing vision. Please call the experts at Premier Retina Specialists for more information on keeping you and your eyes healthy.