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What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy results from damage to blood vessels in the retina (light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye) as a result of improper storage of blood sugar in the body, also known as diabetes. Individuals with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes may develop diabetic retinopathy. Improper storage of blood sugar may also change the shape of the eye’s lens and affect vision. When left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can progress and possibly cause severe loss of vision.
What Are the Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy?
The most common symptoms in patients who suffer from diabetic retinopathy include:
- Blurry vision
- Eye floaters and spots Scotoma (shadow in one’s side vision)
- Poor night vision
- Empty spot or darkness in one’s central vision
- Sudden vision loss
- Eye pain
If you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and are experiencing any of the symptoms described here, it is essential that you contact us right away at any of our office locations.
While there is no cure for diabetic retinopathy, Dr. Malkani can provide you with effective treatments that can improve or preserve your vision.
Types of Diabetic Retinopathy
There are two types of diabetic retinopathy:
- Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR), at its early stages, leads to damage of the tiny blood vessels in the central portion of the retina. When the damage is undetected, these blood vessels can leak blood, fluid or fatty material and cause vision loss. NPDR is the most common type of diabetic retinopathy. When left untreated, non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy can lead to macular edema. Macular edema is swelling of the macula, the small area at the center of the retina that is crucial for clear vision. This can cause vision loss, as can macular ischemia. Macular ischemia occurs when blood vessels in the macula become closed and deprive the macula of the blood supply it needs to function properly.
- Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is the more severe stage of diabetic retinopathy. During this stage, the body triggers the growth of abnormal blood vessels as a response to oxygen deprivation in the retina. Unfortunately, these blood vessels are fragile and bleed into the vitreous gel that fills the inside of the eye, thus resulting in severe vision loss.
Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment Options
While diabetic retinopathy cannot be cured, several treatment options are available that focus on slowing the progression of the disease. In some cases, vision improves.
Malkani Retina Center offers the following treatments for effective management of diabetic retinopathy:
- Laser therapy and/or Avastin, Lucentis and Macugen injections (anti-VEGF agents) Steroid injections Vitrectomy surgery Laser therapy involves the use of laser energy to either seal off the leaking blood vessels or cause abnormal blood vessels to shrink. Laser therapy can also be used to reduce vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGF), chemicals in the retina believed to be responsible for abnormal blood vessel formation, growth and leakage. To achieve the best possible results, multiple treatment sessions may be required.
- Injecting anti-VEGF or steroid drugs into the eye helps control the VEGF chemicals and reduces leakage from damaged blood vessels in the retina. Injectable medications may also help reduce swelling and inflammation, and can be combined with laser therapy for the best results.
- Vitrectomy surgery is reserved for patients who have manifestations of proliferative diabetic retinopathy that cannot be treated with laser or injections alone, such as vitreous hemorrhage or retinal detachment. This procedure involves the extraction of vitreous gel and hemorrhage, and removal of abnormal diabetic blood vessels and scar tissue. The gel is then replaced with air, special gas, special saline solution or silicone oil, depending on the severity of the diabetic retinopathy.
Can Diabetic Retinopathy Cause Blindness?
Diabetic retinopathy can sometimes lead to severe vision loss and blindness when left untreated. The most important factors in the management of diabetic retinopathy are control of blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure levels combined with routine eye exams and effective medical treatments.
The key to preventing severe vision impairment is early detection, so please contact us to schedule your eye exam.
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