Mercy Eye Center
One of the potential effects of long-term diabetes is damage to the eye’s retina – a condition called diabetic retinopathy. It is the leading cause of blindness in American adults. There are two types of diabetic retinopathy – in one form blood vessels within the eye swell and leak fluid; in the other new blood vessels grows across the retina.
The disease typically follows four stages
- mild nonproliferative – microaneurysms and intraretinal hemorrhages
- moderate nonproliferative – extensive microaneurysms, intraretinal hemorrhages and hard exudates
- severe nonproliferative – large blot hemorrhages, venous beadng, cotton-wool spots, IRMA (intra-retinal microvascular abnormalities
- proliferative – new blood vessels develop on the retina and/or optic nerve. The thin vessels can leak blood and cause vision loss and ultimately blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy is often symptom-free until the last, proliferative stage which can cause rapid, permanent eye damage and vision loss.
Symptoms can include:
- blurred vision
- spots or “floaters” that appear
- poor night vision
In addition to performing a visual acuity test and a dilated eye exam your eye doctor may use a tonometer
to easily and painlessly measure the pressure within your eye. Your physician may also want to do a fluorescein angiogram
to measure dye as it passes through the blood vessels in your retina.
It is critical that people with both types 1 and 2 diabetes get a dilated eye exam annually. Nearly 1 in 2 diabetics will be diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy. Caught early enough your ophthalmologist can begin treatment to halt its progression and prevent further vision loss. Keeping blood glucose levels within strict, appropriate levels has been shown to slow the development of retinopathy.
If you are diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy your physician will likely prescribe laser surgery
; if you have a lot of blood pooling in the vitreous gel within your eye your physician may recommend a vitrectomy