Diabetic retinopathy is a very common diabetic eye condition. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high levels of blood sugar damage the blood vessels in the retina. These blood vessels leak blood and other bodily fluids into the retina. This makes the retinal tissues swell and as a result makes images sent to the brain appear to be blurred. This condition is very dangerous and increases the risks of blindness if it is not treated. The risk of developing this disease also increases with age.
There are three main types of this disease. These are;
- i) Non-proliferative retinopathy
This is also called background retinopathy. This is the early stage of the disease where the retinal blood vessels leak and make the retina to swell. Many people with diabetes have non-proliferative retinopathy, but the symptoms are usually mild or even non-existent.
This is when the macula swells due to the leakage of fluids from tiny blood vessels. Macular edema is the reason why most people lose their vision as it damages central vision.
iii)Proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
This is the advanced form of retinopathy where the retina is deprived oxygen due to circulation problems. This causes new fragile vessels that bleed easily to begin to grow in the retina. When these vessels bleed into the vitreous, they lead to sudden loss of one’s vision. This stage is severe and causes loss of both the central and peripheral vision.
Who is at risk of contracting this disease?
Diabetic retinopathy has some risks factors. Everyone who has these factors is at risk of contracting diabetic retinopathy and hence there is a need for retinopathy screening. These factors include;
- High blood pressure.
- Poor blood sugar control.
- Prolonged diabetes.
- Raised fats in the blood.(triglycerides.)
People with all types of diabetes (1 and 2) are at risk of contracting retinopathy. This risk increases with the length of time a person has been diagnosed with diabetes. Those people with high blood sugar can reduce the chance of contracting retinopathy by keeping blood sugar levels controlled.
Early stages of retinopathy mostly occur without any visible symptoms. These symptoms only become visible when the disease advances. Some of the symptoms to check for in late-stage diabetic retinopathy include;
- Blurred vision.
- Eye pain and strain.
- Eye floaters and spots.
Prolonged diabetes causes diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes weakens and damages the blood vessels that nourish the retina starving the retina of oxygen. This leads to the growth of tiny blood vessels that bleed into the retina and makes it swell. This results in loss of vision.
Getting lost vision back is always hard and even irreversible at times. It is therefore essential to prevent retinopathy. There are strategies one can take to prevent or reduce the risk of developing this disease. These strategies include;
- Diabetes management- this includes controlling levels of blood pressure, cholesterol as well as sugar levels in the blood. This will aid in reducing the risk of contracting retinopathy.
- Regular eye check-ups- Eye examinations can help in early diagnosis and hence early treatment of the disease. This goes a long way in preventing severe loss of vision.
There are several treatment options for people that suffer from retinopathy. These are;
- Laser treatment- This option treats Macular edema and proliferative retinopathy. It helps in sealing blood vessels that leak as well as reducing the growth of the new tiny blood vessels. This improves oxygen and nutrients supply to the retina and thereby helps prevent vision loss.
- Surgery- This treatment option helps in correcting cases of severe retinopathy. It is usually used when laser treatment fails to work.
*The author of this blog is not a medical professional and this article does not contain professional medical advice. This blog is not intended to substitute for medical advice, treatment, or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of the contents of this article. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.