Diabetic Retinopathy: An Overview

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Diabetic retinopathy is one of three eye conditions that is often brought on by diabetes. This eye condition is one of the most common types of conditions and is one of the leading causes of adult-onset blindness.

What is diabetic retinopathy?

This disease of the eye is caused by changes in the blood vessels that feed the retina. There are two types of blood vessel changes that can occur with this disease. One type involves the blood vessels of the retina swelling to the point that they begin to leak blood into the retina, causing damage. The other type involves the abnormal formation of vessels around the retina, which leads to damage of the retina as well.

What are the symptoms?

While all symptoms of this disease are not present immediately in every sufferer, there are some common symptoms that seem to be found across the board in diabetic retinopathy. Most symptoms are not noticed until the disease has progressed into later stages. An annual eye exam is important for diagnosis in the early stages.

As the disease progresses, it can produce pain in the eye and vision problems. Macular edema can occur as the swelling in the eye grows due to leaking fluid from the damaged vessels around the retina. Along with leaking vessels, the abnormal growth of new vessels can result in hemorrhaging in the eye which can lead to cloudy vision.

Do all diabetes sufferers experience this disease?

While not all diabetes patients will develop this disease, all of them are at risk. The longer a person has had diabetes, the more likely they are to develop diabetic retinopathy. All diabetes patients should have regular eye checkups so that the disease can be watched for and monitored for progression once a diagnosis has been made.

What are the treatments for diabetic retinopathy?

Treatments for diabetic retinopathy will vary depending on factors such as age, health, the stage of the disease, and the preferences of the patient. If the disease is caught in its earlier stages, it will be much easier to treat and prevent the progression.

There are three main types of treatments available for this disease. The first option is laser surgery. This surgery is used to treat the abnormal and leaking vessels on the retina. It helps to shrink the swollen vessels and remove the abnormal ones that have formed.

Another method of treatment involves injections of medications into the eyes. This is the most common form of treatment and often the first one that is tried before more invasive measures are taken. The injections help to treat the symptoms of swelling in the eye and minimize the risk of damage to the retina.

The final method of treating this eye disease is a procedure called vitrectomy. This procedure is used in patients who are at a greater risk of blindness. The fluid in the center of the eye is removed and replaced with a saline solution that is often able to stop the progression of this disease.

Diabetic retinopathy is a disease that cannot be prevented, but it can be greatly controlled if it is caught in the early stages. Eye exams can help to screen for this disease and are the number one method to preventing the progression.

This article was written by Terri Bednarski, Licensed Optician at Brighton Optical, an Optical Care Center in Tonawanda, NY.  Please visit their website for more information!

© 2012, BrightonOptical.com.  The information on this page may not be reproduced or republished on another webpage or website without the author’s permission.

 

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