Retinal Disease and Diabetes
Diabetes is linked to a number of eye conditions, including cataracts, glaucoma, and macular edema. One of the most common eye diseases affecting individuals with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. This type of retinal disease is the leading cause of blindness for adults in the United States. In this informative blog post, our physicians at Retina Associates in Shawnee, KS, discuss retinal disease and diabetes, including symptoms, risk factors, treatment, and prevention.
About Diabetic Retinopathy
The retina is a membrane inside the eye that changes light into images. Diabetic retinopathy alters the blood vessels inside the retina, causing them to swell, bleed, or leak fluid. Left untreated, this condition can damage and scar the retina, causing vision changes or blindness.
There are two types of diabetic retinopathy. These include:
- NPDR (non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy): Considered the milder form of the disease, NPDR does not usually exhibit symptoms.
- PDR (proliferative diabetic retinopathy): This is the most advanced form of diabetic retinopathy, and is indicated by new, irregular blood vessels in the retina.
Common Risk Factors
Anyone with diabetes is at risk for diabetic retinopathy. This includes individuals with type one, type two, or gestational diabetes. Nearly half of all Americans diagnosed with diabetes will develop this condition at some point.
There are other factors that increase the risk of diabetic retinopathy, as well. These include:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Tobacco use
- Ethnicity (Hispanic, African American, and Native American individuals have a higher risk of the disease)
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
During the early stages, diabetic retinopathy does not typically present symptoms. For this reason, it is imperative that diabetic patients attend routine eye exams at our Shawnee practice. We can detect serious problems before they worsen.
As the disease progresses, symptoms may develop gradually or suddenly. Here are some of the most common warning signs:
- Blurred vision
- Poor night vision
- Streaks or patches that obscure vision
- Color vision impairment
- Sudden, total vision loss
How to Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy
Unfortunately, diabetic retinopathy is an inevitable consequence for many individuals with diabetes. However, successfully managing blood sugar levels can help prevent the onset of severe disease. Keeping blood pressure in check is another way to reduce the risk of serious damage. Here are some other recommendations to keep severe symptoms at bay:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet, rich in fresh fruits and veggies.
- Exercise regularly.
- Consume alcohol in moderation.
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Avoid all tobacco products.
- Attend routine eye exams and screenings.
- Take any hypertension medications according to your physician’s recommendations.
Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment
Individuals with diabetic retinopathy should undergo comprehensive eye exams as frequently as every two to four months. If you experience any symptoms, treatment should begin right away. While it cannot reverse any existing damage, treatment can prevent your vision from worsening. Here are the most common treatments offered at our practice:
- Injections: Corticosteroids or anti-VEGF medications can slow down the progression of diabetic retinopathy.
- Laser treatment: Your doctor can use laser therapy to shrink the retinal blood vessels. This helps reduce inflammation and prevent leakage.
- Eye surgery: Patients who sustain excessive scarring or bleeding may benefit from a vitrectomy. This procedure involves removing the gel-like substance inside the eye to allow for better retinal access. Once complete, the vitreous gel is replaced with sterile saline or silicone oil.
At Retina Associates, our doctors use the most conservative approach possible. During a consultation at our practice, we can determine which treatment will be most beneficial for you.
Schedule Your Consultation Today
If you have diabetes, it is important to keep your eye health in check. Routine eye exams and screenings can help reduce the risk of damage caused by diabetic retinopathy. To learn more, contact us online or call our Shawnee practice at (913) 831-7400.