Diabetic retinopathy is a condition where blood vessels in the retina swell and leak fluid, causing vision loss. The longer you live with diabetes, the higher your chances are of developing diabetic retinopathy. But many do not realize their sight is being affected until they begin to lose their vision.
“Diabetic retinopathy, a complication of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, is the most common reason for blindness in adults in developed countries,” Shruti Dave, MD, Endocrinology, said. “In early stages of this condition when management is most effective, patients are often unaware of its presence, so regular eye exams are an important part of good diabetes care.”
Patients may not experience symptoms until floaters and spots appear in their vision. It’s common to also see small specs that slide across the field of vision. These small and sometimes overlooked symptoms are why scheduling regular eye appointments is critical for anyone managing diabetes. Doctors can check for changes in your vision, catching the condition when it first forms.
“The more stable and consistent a patient’s glucose levels are, the higher the likelihood of preventing diabetic retinopathy,” Fatima Ahmed, MD, Ophthalmology, said.
“Good glucose control, good blood pressure and lipid control can reduce the risk and slow down progression of diabetic retinopathy,” Dr. Dave said. “There are more specialized treatments for various stages of this condition that an eye care provider can use to reduce risk of severe vision loss based on each individual patient’s circumstances.”
Diabetic retinopathy is a condition with two different types. Non-proliferative retinopathy is when blood vessels begin to swell and leak fluid. Vision loss can begin during this stage due to a decrease in blood flow in the eyes.
Proliferative retinopathy is the second stage where abnormal blood vessels grow in the retina. This can cause severe vision loss and will need urgent treatment.
About eight million people in the U.S. suffer from diabetic retinopathy. Preventing diabetic retinopathy begins with managing diabetes. Treatments include intravitreal injections of anti-VEGF medications to the eye, laser treatments or surgery to repair the retina in more severe cases.
Keys to managing diabetes include:
- Keep blood pressure and cholesterol low through low sugar and low sodium diets
- Exercise and maintain an active routine to stay heathy.
- Maintain yearly eye exams to help address the condition before severe vision loss occurs.
“Retinopathy can impact the smaller vessels in the eye, causing swelling and bleeding, which can cause blurry vision and floaters. For a patient with diabetes, controlling blood sugars is the best way to maintain the health of their organs, including their eyes,” said Dr. Huo.
“Be consistent and compliant with your eye exams!” Dr. Ahmed said. “This is key to catching the early signs of diabetic retinopathy and preventing damage to the eyes before permanent vision loss develops.”
Patients can schedule an eye exam by calling the Carle Eye Department at (217) 902-3937. For more information on diabetes’ impact on your body and how to stay healthy, visit Carle.org.
Categories: Staying Healthy