Most people know that Diabetes is a condition that interferes with the blood sugar. Diabetes will make it hard for the body to use and store this sugar. Over time Diabetes can weaken and change the small blood vessels in the eyes. These small blood vessels are in charge of nourishing the retina in the back of the eye. When these blood vessels get changed or weekend this is called Diabetic Retinopathy. The changes can include leaking of blood, development of new and poorly constructed blood vessels, and enlargement of the blood vessels.
That is why if left untreated Diabetic Retinopathy can lead to vision loss or blindness.
Because this can cause blindness early detection and treatment is important. This is why the ADA recommends an eye examination with either retinal scans or dilation every year.
At One Vision we make sure to ask all of our patients about their family history of Diabetes. This allows our Eye Doctor to keep a close watch on patients with an increased risk of Diabetic Retinopathy.
What to Expect During the Exam
Our Optometrist will look a the retina during the eye examination using either an ophthalmoscope, fungus lens, or retinal imaging equipment. The retinal imaging equipment at our Broken Arrow vision clinic is the Topcon Maestro and images things down to the size of a red blood cell.
Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy
The early stages of Diabetic Retinopathy may cause blurriness in your vision. This blur could be in the central part of your vision or the side. Sometimes the early stage doesn’t produce any visual changes. This is all determined by the location of the weakened or changed blood vessels.
Then, as the Diabetic Retinopathy worsens you may notice cloudy spots in your vision, floaters, black spots in your vision, or blind spots. This is typically caused by blood leaking from these weakened or changed blood vessels. This leaked blood is blocking light from reaching the photoreceptor cells in the back of the eye.
Next, if the Diabetic Retinopathy continues to worsen to more advanced stages of the disease major changes can occur. Scar tissue may start to form from the formation of new and poorly constructed blood vessels. As this scar tissue shrinks it can start to pull on the retina and lead to a retinal detachment. Retinal detachments are an ocular emergency.
Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy
Once Diabetic Retinopathy has been diagnosed by an Optometrist treatment can be started. At the early stages monitoring and blood sugar control is the standard of care. However, at the more advanced stages laser surgery to decrease the likelihood of a retinal detachment may be needed. This laser procedure is done not to improve the vision, but to decrease the odds of the patient going blind. This laser procedure will likely decrease night vision and possibly all vision, but hopefully allow the patient to retain some vision. Sometimes other surgical options are required.
However, if significant vision loss has occurred your Eye Doctor can talk to you about some low vision optical devices. These devices can increase image size and help maximize your remaining vision. Some of these devices include microscope and telescope lenses.
The Good News
Thankfully, not every diabetic patient will develop Diabetic Retinopathy. However, the longer you have diabetes the higher the chances of developing problems. Also, research suggests that pregnancy, smoking, and high blood pressure can increase the risk.
What can you do to help?
- Eat the proper and recommended diet
- Exercise regularly
- Take your prescription medications
- Have your eyes examined by an Eye Doctor yearly