Diabetic Retinopathy: Everything you need to know
Diabetes can cause detrimental effects on many organs of the body, including the eyes (i.e. diabetic retinopathy). When patients have elevated hemoglobin A1c or blood sugar levels and the disease is uncontrolled, it can present in a form of eye disease called diabetic retinopathy.
Even long-term diabetic patients with controlled disease that have no visual symptoms can still be affected, as the number one prognostic factor of developing diabetic retinopathy is the duration of the disease.
This is the reason why it is standard of care for all diabetic patients to undergo a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.
What is diabetic retinopathy & its symptoms?
Diabetic retinopathy refers to the damaging effects of diabetes on the retina, the tissue in the back of the eye.
Diabetes can affect the small retinal blood vessels, causing them to become weak and leaky, leading to bleeding or swelling of the retina.
- A patient can experience decreased vision if the swelling occurs in the macula, the area of the retina responsible for clear central vision.
- The vessels can also become dysfunctional, resulting in a lack of blood flow and oxygen to the retina called ischemia.
All of these effects are categorized into distinct stages depending on their severity and are collectively referred to as non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR).
There may also be formation of new blood vessels called neovascularization, resulting in the advanced form of the disease called proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR).
These new vessels can migrate to different parts of the eye and are very detrimental to ocular structures.
If left untreated, they can lead to blindness and a whole gamut of ocular complications including glaucoma and retinal detachment.
Diabetic retinopathy treatment options
For mild cases, your eye doctor may decide to monitor your retina closely and work with your endocrinologist or primary care provider to encourage blood sugar control.
With macular edema or advanced proliferative disease, a patient may be required to undergo certain treatments to prevent vision loss. These include:
- anti-VEGF injections in the eye
- a retinal laser procedure called photocoagulation
- or a vitrectomy surgery to remove the jelly-like substance and bleeding inside the eye.
Advanced retinal complications
Many of the advanced retinal complications can be prevented with regular yearly visits to the eye doctor.
If you are a diabetic patient, whether you’re asymptomatic or experiencing blurred or reduced vision, it is recommended to schedule an appointment with your eye care provider for a dilated eye exam to ensure there is no evidence of diabetic retinopathy.
Choose Woolfson Eye Institute for diabetic retina treatment
If you would like diabetic retina treatment from our eye doctors, call a Woolfson Eye Institute office nearest you for an appointment (our locations can be found here) ( https://www.woolfsoneye.com/locations/ ).
We have 2 locations in Atlanta (GA), Cumming (GA), Lawrenceville (GA), Douglasville (GA), Canton (GA), Marietta (GA), Snellville (GA), Asheville (NC), Chattanooga (TN), Knoxville (TN) and Johnson City (TN).