The primary cause of vision loss among diabetics is diabetic retinopathy. Your retina sends messages to your brain via your optic nerve to create the images you see. Diabetic retinopathy is a condition in which blood vessels in the retina become injured due to elevated blood sugar levels. These blood vessels cannot supply your eye with sufficient oxygenated blood.
In addition, these vessels can release blood and fluids into the retina, resulting in blurred or obscured vision. If the condition continues to worsen, permanent vision loss may result. Other symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include “floaters” in the visual field, altered color vision, difficulty seeing at night, and black or blank areas in the center of the visual field.
Everyone with diabetes is at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, but the likelihood increases with duration of diabetes. If you have diabetes, it is essential to comprehend this progressive condition and its phases, as early detection and treatment of diabetic retinopathy can help preserve your vision.
The diabetic retinopathy phases
Four phases of diabetic retinopathy exist. In the early phases of the disease, vision alterations may not occur.
Retinopathy, non proliferative and mild: In the first stage, the blood vessels of the retina develop microaneurysms, which are microscopic, dilated cavities. They can potentially discharge fluid into the tissue.
Moderate non proliferative retinopathy: Blood vessels in the retina continue to constrict and may even become obstructed, impeding their ability to transport blood to the retina. The integrity of the blood vessel walls is compromised. This can also contribute to a buildup of fluid in the macula of the retina, a condition known as diabetic macular edema, in which abnormal blood vessels release fluid into the eye, resulting in blurred vision and eventual blindness if left untreated.
In severe non proliferative retinopathy, an increasing number of retinal blood vessels are damaged and blocked as the disease progresses. This causes the retina to develop new blood vessels, leading to the progression of diabetic retinopathy to the subsequent stage.
Retinopathy, diabetic, proliferative: In this advanced stage, aberrant new blood vessels are visible within the retina and vitreous gel, the fluid that occupies the eyeball. These vessels are typically vulnerable, resulting in increased blood and fluid leakage into the retina and vitreous. Scars and membranes can cause tearing or detachment of the retina. Significant vision difficulties or blindness may result.
The treatment of diabetic retinopathy
Depending on the stage, several effective treatments are available for diabetic retinopathy. In the earliest phases, you may not require immediate treatment; instead, you will check in regularly with your eye specialist to monitor progression. Additionally, you can better manage your diabetes by lowering your blood sugar levels, consuming a healthy diet, and exercising frequently. When diabetic retinopathy is in its early phases, its progression can be slowed by good diabetes management.
If you have advanced diabetic retinopathy, treatment is required immediately. Your ophthalmologist may use laser treatments, intraocular surgery to remove blood and scar tissue from the eye, or eye injections to prevent new blood vessels from growing and causing problems, depending on your specific case.
Can my risk of developing diabetic retinopathy be reduced?
Anyone with diabetes is susceptible to developing diabetic retinopathy, but there are ways to reduce your risk and prevent complications. First, ensure that you receive an annual dilated eye exam from an ophthalmologist. Regular eye exams enable your ophthalmologist to detect diabetic retinopathy in its earliest and most treatable phases by detecting any indicators of retinal damage.
Maintain tight control of your blood sugar. By keeping your blood sugar within a healthy range, you can avoid damage to the blood vessels in your retina.
Choosing a healthful lifestyle can also protect your eyes. Smoking cessation reduces the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol has also been shown to reduce the risk of vision loss in diabetics.
Your perspective is priceless. If you observe any changes in your vision or have any questions about diabetic retinopathy, consult your physician or ophthalmologist.