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Eye care information on diseases and treatments
Introduction to Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy belongs to a category of diabetic eye diseases that are known to lead to partial or total blindness. Diabetic Retinopathy is also the most common cause of blindness among adults in the United States.
If you are a diabetic, then the sugar in your body is not being utilized or stored properly. This causes your blood sugar levels to accelerates. It is the excessively high blood sugar that causes damage to blood vessels in the retina. The retina is like a screen that translates information about what your eyes perceive to the brain. When the retina malfunctions you can go blind or at the very least suffer from dim vision.
Some people experience leaking blood vessels and others experience the development of too many new blood vessels. The tragedy of this disease is that often it is not noticed until a total loss of vision takes place. Normally this disease affects both eyes at the same time and at the same rate of degeneration.
Diabetic retinopathy can also cause the retina to thicken and eventually become thick and opaque. It may also involve the peripheral retina, the macula or both.
Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy
The early stages of diabetic retinopathy are also collectively called non-proliferative retinopathy. The walls of the blood vessels weaken and cause hemorrhaging that looks like pin prick size dots. The swellings of tiny blood vessels cause edema in the retina leading to vision loss.
In the next stage, the blood vessels that nourish the retina are blocked. This causes the body to signal the circulatory system to send even more blood to the retina.
At this final and advanced stage of the disease, new blood vessels start growing to replace all of the blocked blood vessels. These new blood vessels are also abnormal and collapse. Blood is leaked to the eyes causing vision impairment.
Signs and Symptoms
Most people with this disorder do not experience pain or symptoms. Some people eventually experience the swelling of the macula, which is the part of the retina that is light sensitive. You may not be able to tolerate light. In the latter stages of the disease, blood leaking into your eyes can obstruct your vision.
Although many people with this disorder can still see you still run a high risk of full or partial blindness. Prompt and professional treatment is necessary to avoid blindness.
It takes an eye care professional to correctly examine your eye for this condition. During an exam he or she will look for macular edema, fatty deposits on the retina, leaking blood vessels and damaged nerve tissues.
If you have this condition you may be able to see small spots that are actually specks of blood created by hemorrhaging blood vessels floating in your vision. If you see these then you need to see a doctor immediately as it is a sign of diabetic retinopathy.
Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy
If you are a diabetic, then prevention is key. All diabetics risk developing this type of retinopathy. As a diabetic, it is good idea to have thorough eye examination at least once a year.
To stave off diabetic retinopathy it is also a good idea to eat right exercise and keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood pressure under control. Be sure to book routine eye examinations as early detection of this condition is crucial to preventing blindness.
If you have reached the stage where you have macular edema it can be treated laser surgery. This treatment seals off tiny blood vessels to prevent the leaking of blood and reduces the amount or pressure due to fluid overload building up in the retina. This treatment, which is painless, is also called laser photocoagulation. It also slows down the growth of new damaging blood vessels.
More than one laser treatment is usually required to treat this condition. Having laser treatments can reduce the risk of losing your vision by half. However sometimes having the laser surgery can cause loss of vision. The main purpose of the treatment is to prevent the progression of the disease.
If blood has spilled into the eye chamber, then a procedure called vitrectomy is performed. Vitrectomy removes the blood pooling in the eye’s vitrious fluid. The body gradually replaces the lost vitreous humor and this in turn usually improves the vision as well because it relieves the pressure on the macular part of the retina.
Laser treatments are not a cure all serving mainly to manage rather than cure this disease.