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Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment

People who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at risk of developing serious eye conditions, that may even lead to blindness. 

Especially poorly controlled or undiagnosed diabetes, but in some cases well controlled diabetes,  can lead to a constellation of eye problems. Diabetic eye disease can lead to : diabetic retinopathy,  premature cataract or glaucoma. All of these can lead to permanent  vision loss.


What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common form of diabetic eye disease.  It is known that elevated blood sugar in patients with diabetes leads to blood vessel damage throughout the body and to the retina in particular.  As a result, patients with diabetic retinopathy, have been found to have abnormal leaky blood vessels and often go on to grow abnormal fragile blood vessels. Patients with early onset or mild diabetic retinopathy may not notice changes to their vision. With time however, diabetic retinopathy is guaranteed to lead to bilateral vision loss. If you or a family member have diabetes, please make an appointment to see us at the European Eye Center.  If you have diabetes, you should have a comprehensive eye exam yearly.

What are the stages of diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy has four stages, mild non-proliferative retinopathy, moderate non-proliferative retinopathy, severe non-proliferative retinopathy, and proliferative retinopathy. These are determined based on fundus (retina) exam findings. Sometimes your ophthalmologist may need to perform fluorescein angiography or OCT scanning to further evaluate your diabetic retinopathy.

How does diabetic retinopathy cause vision loss?

There are 2 main ways that elevated blood sugar in diabetes can lead to visual loss. Abnormal blood vessels can grow. Due to the fragile nature of these vessels, they often leak and bleed causing blurriness and distortion of vision. Alternatively, incompetent damaged blood vessels can leak into the macula, the part of the retina that is used for sharp crisp center vision. This leads to macula swelling, also referred to as macular edema, and results in vision loss.

Who is at risk for diabetic retinopathy?

All people with diabetes type 1 or 2 insulin dependent or non-insulin dependent, are at risk to develop diabetic retinopathy. As a result anyone with diabetes should get an annual comprehensive eye exam. Approximately half of the patients when diagnosed with diabetes, already have some stage of diabetic retinopathy. If you have diabetic retinopathy, your doctor can recommend treatment to help prevent its progression. 

A retina specialist is the best qualified to treat diabetic retinopathy.