Evaluation and Treatment
Patients with diabetes are at a higher risk for developing eye conditions because a high blood sugar level can damage blood vessels in the eye. Over 40 percent of patients diagnosed with diabetes develop some form of eye disease as a result. These conditions can cause blood or fluid to leak from the retina blood vessels or new blood vessels to grow on the surface of the retina or into the gel or other areas of the eye 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 at least once a year to detect any signs of diabetic eye disease as soon as possible. You can also minimize your risk of developing diabetic eye disease by keeping your blood sugar and blood pressure under control, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
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 changes in blood sugar levels or simply the presence of long-term diabetes. If high blood sugar levels cause blood vessels in the retina to leak blood or fluid, the retina may become swollen and form deposits.
Patients who develop diabetic retinopathy may not notice any changes to their vision at first. In its earliest stages, this condition causes tiny areas of leakage from the small blood vessels of the retina.
Early stages of diabetic retinopathy do not usually require treatment, just that patients monitor their blood sugar level to help prevent the disease from progressing. If the disease does progress, treatment may be necessary to preserve your vision. Treatment may be offered to help decrease the risk of severe vision loss.
Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is a more 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, which can cause severe vision loss and even blindness.
If the abnormal vessels begin to bleed, patients may begin to new notice floaters in their vision, which are actually specks of blood that appear in front of your vision. It is important to see your doctor as soon as you notice them, as the retina needs to be treated once abnormal vessels appear.
Patients with proliferative diabetic retinopathy usually require laser surgery or injections to discourage the growth of abnormal vessels. Severe bleeding may require a vitrectomy, or removal of the vitreous, to remove blood from the center of the eye.
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.
Your doctor may diagnose macular edema during your regular eye exam before symptoms are present.
Treatment for macular edema usually includes a laser procedure called focal laser treatment. This helps reduce the risk of vision loss and can even improve lost vision in a small number of cases. Focal laser treatment is performed in your doctor’s office and can usually be completed in just one session.