What is diabetic eye disease?
If you have diabetes, you are also at an increased risk for certain eye diseases, including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts. That is why it is very important for anyone with diabetes to have a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year. Nethery Eye Associates can help you manage your diabetic eye care.
What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes and is one of the leading causes of blindness. It occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels inside the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eye. Diabetic retinophathy often has no early warning signs.
The four stages of diabetic retinopathy are:
- Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy – At the earliest stage, small areas of balloon-like swelling called microaneurysms occur in the retina’s tiny blood vessels.
- Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy – As the disease progresses, some blood vessels that nourish the retina are blocked.
- Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy – At this point, many more blood vessels are blocked, depriving several areas of the retina with their blood supply.
- Proliferative Retinopathy – At this advanced stage, the signals sent by the retina for nourishment trigger the growth of new blood vessels. These new blood vessels are abnormal and fragile.
How does diabetic retinopathy cause vision loss?
Blood vessels damaged from diabetic retinopathy can cause vision loss in two ways:
- Fragile, abnormal blood vessels can develop and leak blood into the center of the eye, blurring vision.
- Fluid can leak into the center of the macula, the part of the eye where sharp, straight ahead vision occurs. The fluid makes the macula swell, blurring vision. This condition is called macular edema, and it can occur at any stage of diabetic retinopathy.
How is diabetic retinopathy detected?
Macular edema, a swelling or thickening of the part of the eye responsible for detailed central vision, and diabetic retinopathy are detected during a comprehensive eye exam that includes:
- Eye chart test – This test measures how well you see at various distances.
- Dilated eye exam – Drops are placed in your eyes to widen or to dilate the pupils. A magnifying lens is then used to examine your retina and optic nerve for signs of damage and other eye problems.
- Tonometry test – An instrument measures the pressure inside the eye. Numbing drops may be applied to your eye for this test.
During a comprehensive eye exam, we will check your retina for early signs of disease, including:
- Leaking blood vessels
- Retinal swelling
- Pale, fatty deposits on the retina – a sign of leaking blood vessels
- Damaged nerve tissue
- Any changes to the blood vessels
How is diabetic retinopathy treated?
During the first few stages of diabetic retinopathy, no treatment is usually needed unless you have macular edema. To prevent diabetic retinopathy from getting worse, patients with diabetes should control their levels of blood sugar, blood pressure and blood cholesterol.
For those who need treatment for macular edema, medicines or injections may be used. Sometimes surgery is recommended to fix leaking blood vessels. The doctors at Nethery Eye Associates will diagnose your condition and guide you through the proper treatment options as part of your diabetic eye care.
What do I do if I’ve already lost some vision?
If you have lost some sight from diabetic retinopathy, there are several low-vision services and devices that may help you make the most of your remaining vision. We can refer you to a specialist in low vision, and there are many community organizations and agencies that offer low vision training, counseling and other special services for people with visual impairments. A nearby school of medicine or optometry may provide low vision services as well.
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