There are over 425 million people in the world who have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. If you have diabetes you may be at risk for a sight threatening disease called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy can lead to vision problems and even blindness if left untreated. When your body is faced with high blood sugar levels it causes damage to the blood vessels located in the retina. High blood sugar levels cause the blood vessels to swell and leak. These changes can cause vision loss in diabetic patients of all ages. It is estimated that 80% of diabetic patients will eventually develop some stage of diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is fairly common in diabetics and the longer you have had diabetes, the greater your risk factor is. Additionally, those with poor control of their blood sugar have an increased risk of developing retinopathy. For every 1% increase in hemoglobin A1c over 7% there is a 50% increased risk in developing proliferative diabetic retinopathy. The team at EyeCare Associates are experts at diagnosing diabetic retinopathy and helping patients manage their condition.
EyeCare Associates has diabetic retinopathy specialists at our Alabama locations.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Diabetic Eye Disease?
In the early stages of diabetic eye disease, there are often no symptoms present and a patient can experience no pain or vision loss while the disease begins to damage the inner eye. Because there is no pain, vision loss, or noticeable signs of the disease early on, it makes it difficult to detect that there is a problem. As the diabetic eye disease progresses, a patient may experience blurry vision, dark spots and floaters, flashes of light, frequent headaches, light sensitivity, poor color or night vision, vision loss, and more. If you have diabetes, it’s important to schedule a diabetic eye exam as soon as possible before any new or unusual vision problems occur.
As previously stated, you could have diabetic retinopathy without knowing it. If you have diabetes it is important that you have regular diabetic eye exams to monitor your vision. Early detection is critical when it comes to diabetic retinopathy. Our specialists at EyeCare Associates can accurately perform a retinal screening to find diabetic retinopathy and create a treatment plan that is right for you.
Risk Factors for Diabetic Retinopathy
If you have any of the following risk factors it is important that you have a retinopathy screening examination as soon as possible.
Protein in urine
Poor blood glucose control (Fasting blood sugar above 100, A1c over 7% or any blood glucose reading over 200)
Raised fats in the blood
High blood pressure
If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes you are at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. Because the condition is caused by increased blood sugar, monitoring your blood glucose levels closely, watching your diet, and exercising is important.
If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes please give us a call to schedule an appointment at your nearest EyeCare Associates location. Our expert doctors are ready to give retinal screenings and get you on your treatment plan for healthier eyes.
There are four stages of diabetic retinopathy:
Stage 1: Mild nonproliferative retinopathy – microaneurysms and dot blot hemorrhages which look like a small red dot or balloon. These do not affect vision and may go unnoticed without an exam.
Stage 2: Moderate nonproliferative retinopathy – characterized by cotton wool spots which are white fluffy looking areas in the retina. These occur when the blood vessels become so leaky that oxygen can no longer be delivered to the retinal tissues.
Stage 3: Severe nonproliferative retinopathy – in this stage bleeding occurs across the entire retina and permanent changes to the shape of the blood vessels also occurs. This is called venous beading and the blood vessels begin to look like beads on a string. Additionally, sometimes new shunt vessels will grow between arteries and veins to bypass the damaged blood vessel area. In extreme cases even the optic nerve which carries information into the brain can begin to swell.
Stage 4: Proliferative retinopathy – An advanced stage of the disease. New blood vessels form in the retina which will cause significant levels of bleeding and often the formation of fibrotic scar-like tissue. At this point problems like retinal detachments and blindness can occur.
With proper diabetes management and regular vision exams, diabetic retinopathy can be avoided. Preventing diabetic retinopathy starts with managing the underlying condition of diabetes.
Take all prescribed medications
Focus on healthy eating
Manage your blood pressure and cholesterol
Manage your blood glucose levels
Avoid tobacco use
Receive an annual eye exam
The most important step is to control your diabetes. For advanced cases, some treatments may be available, including laser treatment to treat the growth of new blood vessels, eye injections to treat retinal swelling and leaking vessels and eye surgery to remove blood or scar tissue in advanced cases.