High blood glucose from diabetes causes damage to the body’s vessel walls over time. Some of the vessels that can be damaged include the blood vessels in your eyes. When you start to have complications inside the eyes due to diabetes it’s called diabetic retinopathy or diabetic eye disease. It can happen to anyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, especially the longer you are diabetic and the less controlled your blood sugar. At first, diabetic retinopathy may cause no symptoms or only mild vision problems like floaters, blurred vision, and poor night vision. Eventually it can cause blindness.
There are two main stages with different severities of diabetic retinopathy. The first stage of the disease is called non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR). In this most common stage, vessels start to become weaker and can begin to bulge and leak fluid into the retina, causing the retina to swell up. If the swelling involves the center of the retina (macular edema) blurry or distorted vision can be expected, and treatment is necessary.
The most advanced stage of diabetic eye disease is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR). Blood vessels become so damaged they are unable to provide the retina with the oxygen and nutrients it needs to remain healthy, causing retinal ischemia. Abnormal blood vessels begin to grow called neovascularization. These fragile abnormal vessels bleed into the vitreous, scar over, and can cause further damage. Complications include vitreous hemorrhage, glaucoma, and retinal detachment. PDR is very serious and can steal both central and peripheral vision. Treatment is determined by the severity of the disease and include:
- Focal laser treatment or Panretinal Photocoagulation (PRP) may be used to seal off leaking blood vessels and prevent abnormal vessels from growing again.
- Intravitreal Injections of anti-VEGF medicine or cortico-steroids may be used to reduce swelling caused by macular edema and may improve vision.
- Vitrectomy surgery may be required for those with PDR in some extreme cases. This involves removing the vitreous gel from the eye, clearing any blood, repairing detached retina, and removing scar tissue that may have occurred.
Here at Retina Specialist of Michigan, not only will you get a detailed explanation of your condition and the treatment options, but we also show you based on OCT or flourescein angiography diagnostic tests. Controlling risk factors such as keeping good blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and stopping smoking are important in slowing progression of the disease. We recommend closely monitoring your condition with regular eye exams and early treatment to prevent vision loss. If you have any vision changes, please give us a call at (616) 954-2020.