Diabetic retinopathy is a common eye disease affecting an estimated 40 to 45 percent of diabetics in the U.S. This eye condition causes tiny blood vessels that carry blood and nutrients to the retina to swell, leak or even become blocked. When the vessels become blocked, new blood vessels may develop. These vessels are very fragile and can leak blood into the back of the eye, damaging the eye and even causing vision loss or blindness.
Preventing Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is the result of a medical condition – diabetes – but can be further induced by an unhealthy lifestyle. To reduce the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, diabetics should:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Make exercise a priority
- Monitor blood glucose levels
- Keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels down
- Quit smoking
Treating Diabetic Retinopathy
Treatment of diabetic retinopathy depends on the stage of the disease. In the early stages if non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, no treatment other than monitoring the disease and maintaining a healthy lifestyle may be necessary. Keeping up with routine eye exams is essential.
As the disease progresses, the blood vessels in the eye may begin to leak fluid into the eye. This can cause permanent damage to the eye, cause scar tissue to develop and may even cause vision loss. Leaky blood vessels can be treated with a laser eye treatment called photocoagulation. During this treatment, a laser is used to create seal the leaking blood vessels.
When abnormal blood vessel growth occurs during the final stage of the disease — proliferative diabetic retinopathy — a laser treatment is used to scatter small burn areas across the retina, causing the abnormal blood vessels to shrink and disappear.
If bleeding into the vitreous gel of the eye does not clear up on its own, a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy may be necessary to clear the eye of blood left by the disease.
If you have diabetes, it is essential that you maintain annual eye exams. Early detection of the disease is critical to prevent vision loss or blindness. Contact Key-Whitman today to schedule an appointment.