Diabetes Can Affect Sight
If you have diabetes mellitus, your body does not use and store sugar properly. High blood-sugar levels can damage blood vessels in the retina, the nerve layer at the back of the eye that senses light and helps to send images to the brain. The damage to retinal vessels is referred to as diabetic retinopathy.
Types of Diabetic Retinopathy
There are two types of diabetic retinopathy – nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) and proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR).
NPDR, commonly known as background retinopathy, is an early stage of diabetic retinopathy. In this stage, tiny blood vessels within the retina leak blood or fluid that causes the retina to swell or to form deposits called exudates.
PDR is present when abnormal new vessels (neovascularization) begin growing on the surface of the retina or optic nerve. The main cause of PDR is widespread closure of retinal blood vessels, preventing adequate blood flow. The retina responds by growing new blood vessels in an attempt to supply blood to the area where the original vessels closed. Unfortunately, the new, abnormal blood vessels do not resupply the retina with normal blood flow. The new vessels are often accompanied by scar tissue that may cause wrinkling or detachment of the retina. PDR may cause more severe vision loss than NPDR because it can affect both central and peripheral vision.
Diagnosing Diabetic Retinopathy
A medical eye examination is the only way to detect changes inside your eye. The doctors of VisionPoint Eye Center can often diagnose and treat serious retinopathy before you are aware of any vision problems. The ophthalmologist dilates your pupil and looks inside of the eye with an ophthalmoscope.
Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy
The best treatment is to prevent the development of retinopathy as much as possible. Strict control of your blood sugar will significantly reduce the long-term risk of vision loss from diabetic retinopathy. If high blood pressure and kidney problems are present, they also need to be treated.
Vision Loss Is Largely Preventable
If you have diabetes, it is important to know that today, with improved methods of diagnosis and treatment, only a small percentage of people who develop retinopathy have serious vision problems. Early detection of diabetic retinopathy is the best protection against loss of vision. You can significantly lower your risk of vision loss by maintaining strict control of your blood sugar and visiting your ophthalmologist regularly.
People with diabetes should schedule examinations at least once a year. More frequent medical eye examinations may be necessary after a diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy. Pregnant women with diabetes should schedule an appointment in the first trimester because retinopathy can progress quickly during pregnancy.
If you need to be examined for eyeglasses, it is important that your blood sugar be consistently under control for several days when you see your eye doctor. Eyeglasses that work well when the blood sugar is out of control will not work well when the blood sugar is stable.