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PATIENT EDUCATION

DIABETIC RETINOPATHY

Diabetic retinopathy is a potentially blinding complication of diabetes mellitus which causes abnormalities in the tiny blood vessels nourishing the retina. These blood vessels swell and leak blood damaging the retina, the light-sensitive tissue, which lines the back portion of the eye. Left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can result in severe loss of vision and ultimately blindness.

 

The causes of diabetic retinopathy are not certain, but it has been determined that the fluctuation in blood sugar levels leads to an increased risk of this disease, as well as long-term diabetes. There are two stages of diabetic retinopathy, nonproliferative, or background retinopathy, and proliferative retinopathy. In this early stage of nonproliferative retinopathy your symptoms may include blurred or changing vision from the leaking blood that obscures the light sensitive retina. Proliferative retinopathy is the more advanced stage of this disease. New blood vessels grow abnormally in the retina and this growth can lead to scarring or retinal detachment which can lead to total blindness.

 

The location of the disease and the degree of damage to the retina determines the type of treatment of diabetic retinopathy. There are two effective methods in reducing vision loss from this disease. One method is to treat with laser photocoagulation, a way of sealing off the leaking blood vessels and removing new growth. Another procedure is to perform conventional eye surgery, a vitrectomy, to remove blood that has leaked into the vitreous humor replacing it with a saline solution.

 

The best treatment for diabetic retinopathy is prevention. Early detection and management is important to prevent the development of the more sight damaging stages of the disease. Keeping your blood sugar at an even level and frequent eye examinations, as recommended by your physician, will help. With careful monitoring, treatment of diabetic retinopathy can be started before your sight is affected.