Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common complications of diabetes type 1 and diabetes type 2, recent studies by the American diabetic association have found that fifty percent of people with raised sugar levels in the pre-diabetes stage are at risk .
What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when elevated sugar levels damages the tiny blood vessels inside the retina. The retina is the light sensitive part of the eye and it is imperative for healthy vision, which is why blindness occurs when the retina is damaged. Sadly there is very little warning or symptoms before the onset of diabetic retinopathy. Which is why all
diabetics should have dilated eye exam at least once a year. As diabetic retinopathy has four stages, if it is detected early enough there are treatments to halt the progression of the disease so that it does not lead to blindness. If you should see spots of blood or spots floating in your vision, even if it only happens once go and have an eye test, don’t wait for further damage to occur. Sometimes these spots will clear without any treatment, but hemorrhaging can occur in the night and blurred vision is the likely result.
Diabetic retinopathy has four stages:
1. Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy.
The retina has many small blood vessels and small microaneurysms or swellings occur.
2. Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy.
These swellings get worse until they block blood vessels to the retina.
3. Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy.
The blocked vessels become more swollen which deprives several area of the retina of their vital blood supply, to compensate the retina asks the brain to grow more blood vessels
4. Proliferative Retinopathy.
In the fourth and final stage of diabetic retinopathy new blood vessels develop, but they are fragile, too frail to cope with blood flow and once these blood vessels leak the end prognosis is loss of vision, or blindness.
Another complication is macular edema, the macular is the centre of the retina and it controls straight ahead and sharp vision. Statistically fifty percent of people with proliferative retinopathy also have macular edema.
Even at this stage of blurred vision treatment is possible. The most usual treatment is by laser,the resulting tiny burns seal the blood vessels and prevent further leakage. Sometimes more than one session is needed but most treatments are completed in one session, although practitioners usually leave a gap of several months if both eyes need treatment.
How are macular edema and diabetic retinopathy detected?
The test is normally in two part a test to see how sharp your vision is over distance and a dilated eye examination. Drops are placed in the eye to widen the pupil and then the surface of the retina and optic nerve is examined. The test is not painful but the after affects of blurred vision can linger for a few hours.
What is a vitrectomy?
If you have a lot of blood in the center of the eye in the vitreous gel you may need a vitrectomy to restore your sight. During a local or general anaesthetic
A vitrectomy is performed under either local or general anesthesia. The vitreous gel is removed because it is clogged with blood, and it is replaced with a saline solution which has a a similar composition to the vitreous gel. Because an incision is made in the eye you may need to wear an eye patch for a time to stop any infections in the eye.
Although both the treatments have a similar success rate, they do not actually cure the condition. The condition will not be cured whilst your glucose levels are elevated. Modern research is looking at ways to inhibit the signals that ask for new blood vessels to be made.
A better prevention is to reduce your blood sugar levels. This will not only prevent diabetic complications in other organs such as the kidney , and prevent nerve damage.
Don’t forget there are rarely any warning sign and if left untreated diabetic retinopathy causes blindness. A simple painless eye once a year can prevent all these complications, if you listen to the video, you will hear that most sufferers’ of diabetic retinopathy will agree that they could have avoided diabetic retinopathy with regular eye checks.