Patients with diabetes are at higher risk for developing eye conditions because of damage to blood vessels in the eye. These conditions can cause blood or fluid to leak from the retina or new blood vessels to grow on the surface of the retina which can lead to significant damages to your vision and overall quality of life. It is important for patients with diabetes to have dilated eye exams once a year to detect any signs of diabetic eye diseases soon as possible.
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Diabetes and the Eye – Legarreta Eye
Diabetes mellitus is a grouping of diseases that affect the way your body uses glucose. Because glucose is essential for your health, it’s also an important source of energy to the cells that make up your tissues and muscles, as well as your brain’s primary source of fuel. Diabetes, regardless of type, is a condition that causes too much glucose in the blood. This can cause serious health problems. Diabetes can lead to long-term complications. Diabetes can lead to complications if it is not treated properly.
Diabetes can lead to retina damage, which could result in blindness if left untreated. This condition is known as diabetic retinopathy and can increase your risk for other vision problems such as cataracts or glaucoma. Vision loss can be prevented by managing your diabetes well. Even if you don’t have diabetes, it is important to see your eye doctor every year for a dilated exam. This will help detect early signs of diabetic retinopathy. Your treatment may depend on your type of diabetes. Oral medications, blood sugar monitoring and insulin could all play a part. No matter your type of diabetes, it is important to eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight.
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, symptoms are minimal to none. Sometimes people may notice changes in vision, such as changes in their glasses or contact lens prescriptions, or they may notice that their vision fluctuates at times (usually due to uncontrolled blood sugar levels). Additionally, some people may notice changes in vision such as difficulty reading or seeing distant objects.
The disease progresses to intermediate and later stages, blood spots (hemorrhages) appear in the retina and new blood vessel growth can develop and begin to bleed into vitreous (the gel-like fluid that fills the eye). This can lead to dark spots, streaks, or floating areas that look like webs. The spots may disappear on their own, but it is important to seek treatment immediately. Scarring can develop in the back of your eye without treatment. Additionally, the retina can swell from fluid, called macular edema. Depending how severe the swelling is, vision may be affected significantly.
Types of Diabetic Retinopathy
Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR)
Non-Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and is a leading cause of blindness in adults. Diabetic retinopathy develops as a result of damage to the blood vessels in the retina, which may leak fluid or blood, causing the retina to become swollen and sometimes deposits to form. Early stages of diabetic retinopathy do not usually require treatment, although patients should monitor their blood sugar levels to prevent the disease from progressing.
Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR)
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the most advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy, and is classified by the growth of new blood vessels on the retina. These blood vessels are abnormal and fragile, and are susceptible to leaking blood and fluid onto the retina, which can cause severe vision loss and even blindness. Patients with proliferative diabetic retinopathy usually seek laser surgery to shrink the new blood vessels and treat their condition.
Diabetic Macular Edema
Macular edema is a serious condition that can occur at any stage of diabetic retinopathy and involves a buildup of fluid in the macula, the light-sensitive part of the retina that allows us to see objects with great detail. Macular edema can cause difficulty reading or doing close work, and can often greatly affect a patient’s quality of life by interfering with regular activities.
Treatment for macular edema usually includes a laser procedure called focal laser treatment. During this procedure, several hundred small laser burns are placed in the areas of retinal leakage around the macula to prevent leakage from occurring and reduce the amount of fluid in the retina.
Recent advances has shown the benefit of intravitreal injections for the treatment of diabetic macular edema. Our physicians will perform a comprehensive retinal evaluation with advanced imaging technology to determine the best course of treatment.
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