Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetes is a disease that can cause many complications throughout the human body. One of the serious complications of diabetic eye disease can be loss of sight through uncontrolled and untreated diabetes.
What is Diabetic Eye Disease?
Diabetes can cause damage to small blood vessels throughout the body, including the eye’s retina. The retina is the delicate nerve tissue lining the inside of the eye. The retina is the structure in the back of the eye that receives the image we see which is transmitted to the brain through the optic nerve. Diabetic Retinopathy is the name of the condition that affects the eyes of diabetic patients and is caused by the deterioration of blood vessels in the retina.
Two Types of Diabetic Retinopathy
Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy, or Background Diabetic Retinopathy (BDR), is caused by leakage of the tiny retinal blood vessels. Small blood vessels may narrow or close while others enlarge and form balloon-like sacs. These blood vessels can both hemorrhage and leak causing swelling. Both of these diabetic changes can cause decreased vision.
Another type is Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR), which usually begins in a similar manner to background diabetic retinopathy. Closed blood vessels and the development of new abnormal blood vessels cause PDR. These fragile blood vessels grow on the retina’s surface or into the vitreous gel, a substance that fills the inside of the eyeball. Sometimes these new blood vessels break and bleed into the vitreous gel.
What are the Symptoms of Diabetic Eye Disease?
Early in the course of diabetes, leaking or bleeding in the retina may be visible to a doctor even before vision is affected. Blurry vision may occur as an indication of swelling in the retina. When bleeding occurs, vision may become very cloudy or be completely lost.
Evaluating Diabetic Retinopathy:
A thorough eye examination will determine the overall health of your eyes including evaluation for glaucoma, cataracts and visual function. A complete diabetic evaluation often includes a test called fluorescein angiogram. Testing involves injecting a water-soluble dye into a small vein on the hand or arm and taking a series of high speed, specially filtered photographs of the blood vessels in the retina. The results of a fluorescein angiogram help identify and evaluate areas of leakage or new vessel formation. These results can also help guide laser surgery, which is used to treat diabetic retinopathy.
The procedure described above, like all medical procedures, involves certain risks. Your surgeon or staff member can discuss the possible risks and benefits with you in more detail.
Treating Diabetic Retinopathy:
Diabetics are 25 times more likely to become blind than non-diabetic patients. This risk can be significantly reduced with careful evaluation and care.
Today the mainstay of treatment is laser surgery, a procedure that involves focusing a powerful beam of laser light energy onto the retina. Selective destruction or sealing of leaking areas of the damaged retina may be achieved with the laser beam. Laser treatment is often helpful in maintaining vision and preventing further vision loss. This treatment requires no incisions and may be performed in the doctor’s office.
If bleeding into the vitreous gel has occurred or if scar tissue is pulling on the retina, a surgical procedure called Vitrectomy may be necessary. This procedure is usually performed after other treatments have been attempted.
Diabetics may also develop cataracts earlier and are more likely to develop glaucoma. Like most eye conditions and diseases, early diagnosis and treatment is very important. Control of blood sugar levels slows the onset and progression of this disease.
It is important for diabetics to have routine examinations from their primary care physician and to have annual eye exams to determine the eye’s health. If you would like more information on diabetic eye disease, call Southwest Eye Institute at 702-368-2010 and request more information.
The procedure described above, like all surgical procedures, involves certain risks. Your surgeon or staff member can discuss the possible risks and benefits with you in more detail.