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What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that affects the eye. Diabetic retinopathy can cause vision loss and blindness by affecting the blood vessels in the retina, the thin layer at the back inside of the eye that receives light, encodes it, and transmits it to the brain.  If you have diabetes, an annual comprehensive eye exam at least once a year is crucial in identifying potential early signs of diabetic retinopathy. The condition does not always present symptoms in the early stages and to protect your vision, early detection is key.

Am I at Risk of Diabetic Retinopathy?

Any kind of diabetes (type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes) can put you at risk for diabetic retinopathy. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, we encourage you to schedule an appointment to jump start your diabetic eye care. 

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Between 80 to 85 percent of patients with diabetes will develop some degree of retinopathy during their lifetime.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The early stages of diabetic retinopathy typically do not present symptoms but some people have reported noticing early changes in their vision like difficulty reading or distance vision. In later stages of diabetic retinopathy, this can lead to conditions like:

Diabetic Macular Edema

This is when the blood vessels in the retina begin to bleed into the gel-like fluid that fills the eye. That can cause floating dark spots that look similar to cobwebs. Sometimes these can clear up on their own but it is still important to seek treatment right away because if they are left untreated, they can cause scars to form in the back of the eye.

Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is an advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy, a diabetic eye disease. It occurs when diabetes damages the blood vessels in the retina, leading to their closure. In response, the retina starts growing new blood vessels. However, these new vessels are fragile and can bleed easily, potentially leading to serious vision problems.

How Do You Treat Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy isn’t curable, but it can be managed. Treating diabetic retinopathy focuses on slowing its progression and preserving vision. Key steps include:

  • Strict Blood Sugar Control – Managing your diabetes is a crucial part of treating diabetic eye disease. Maintain a healthy diet, exercise, and medication regimen.
  • Regular Eye Exams – Early detection through dilated eye exams allows for timely intervention, essential in preventing significant vision loss.
  • Laser Surgery – Procedures like focal laser treatment can stop or slow the leakage of blood and fluid in the eye.
  • Vitrectomy – In advanced cases, this surgery removes blood and scar tissue from the vitreous, the gel-like substance in the eye.
  • Injections – Medications like anti-VEGF agents and steroids can be injected into the eye to reduce swelling and growth of abnormal blood vessels.

Remember, consistent follow-up with healthcare providers is vital for effective management and adapting treatment as needed.

ICON Eyecare has the latest diagnostic equipment and provides a comprehensive approach to the diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy. Regular eye exams with your doctor, managing your diabetes, and timely treatment can significantly reduce the risk of vision loss and blindness. Request an appointment today to speak with a diabetic retinopathy specialist.

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