What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
This is one of the major causes of blindness in the United States. Diabetes affects blood vessels throughout the body primarily blood vessels in the kidneys and the eyes. When the vessels in the eyes are affected the condition is called diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic Retinopathy Diagnosis
The first change to occur in the eye is the development of diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy leads to changes in existing retinal blood vessels that cause hypoxia (lack of oxygen), which will lead to the formation of new blood vessels. These new blood vessels are weak and cannot supply an adequate amount of oxygen to the retinal tissue and thus lead to the many complications seen in these patients.
The level of diabetic retinopathy can be classified into non-proliferative retinopathy or proliferative diabetic retinopathy depending on the extent of these new blood vessels and their effect on the retina. The main reason for vision loss in diabetics is hemorrhaging inside the eye and swelling in the retina (macular edema).
Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment
The treatment of diabetic retinopathy involves retinal laser therapy. If the neovascularization has not been treated and the patient bleeds into the vitreous humor, they may require surgery to remove the blood.
Treatment for this condition includes dietary changes, medication, laser treatment, and most importantly patient education.
Although the disease is difficult to manage, early detection and prevention play a vital role. Keeping diabetes under control will help reduce the risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. All patients regardless of level of vision or insulin control require an annual dilated funduscopic examination.