Diabetic Retinopathy Symptoms and Treatments
For patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes in Nashville, diabetic retinopathy should be taken seriously. This complication of diabetes affects the eyes and has the potential to cause blindness. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the retina. The longer a patient has diabetes, the greater his or her risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. The risk of diabetic retinopathy is greater in patients whose blood sugar levels are uncontrolled. One of the most dangerous aspects of diabetic retinopathy is that patients typically do not experience symptoms of the condition in its early stages. Because of this, it is common for patients to have the condition without knowing it. Nashville optometrists Walter Choate and Lauren Goldsmith cannot overstress the importance of yearly dilated eye exams for diabetic patients. By controlling blood sugar levels and undergoing routine eye examinations, patients may be able to prevent diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic Retinopathy Symptoms
While it is common for patients to not experience symptoms of diabetic retinopathy in its early stage, symptoms may develop as the condition progresses. Symptoms of advanced diabetic retinopathy include:
- Blurred vision
- Fluctuating vision
- Floaters (spots floating in vision)
- The loss of vision
- Empty or dark areas within vision
- Difficulty with color perception
Early Diabetic Retinopathy
Early diabetic retinopathy is called nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy or NPDR. In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy or NPDR, new blood vessels are not proliferating. NPDR may be described as mild, moderate, or severe. In NPDR, the walls of the blood vessels in the retina weaken, and microaneurysms protrude from the vessel walls. These microaneurysms may leak or ooze blood and fluid into the retina. With the progression of NPDR, the smaller vessels of the retina may begin to close and the larger vessels of the retina may begin to dilate. Nerve fibers within the retina, as well as the macula, may begin to swell.
Advanced Diabetic Retinopathy
Advanced retinopathy, also known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy or PDR, is the most severe type of diabetic retinopathy. In PDR, new blood vessels begin to grow in the retina. Unfortunately, this new growth of blood vessels is abnormal. These abnormal blood vessels may leak or grow into the vitreous of the eye, eventually causing scar tissue to develop. Scar tissue resulting from the abnormal growth of blood vessels may lead to the retina detaching from the back of the eye. The abnormal blood vessels may interfere with the flow of fluid out of the eye, which may result in the build-up of pressure in the eye. This build-up of fluid may result in the development of glaucoma in the affected eye.
Diabetic Retinopathy Treatments
For diabetic patients in Nashville, eye diseases including diabetic retinopathy are a real concern. A patient with diabetes has a significantly higher risk of developing eye diseases than a patient without diabetes. Routine diabetic eye examinations are essential in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy. Nutritional supplements may also be recommended to maintain and protect the health of the retinas.
Once diabetic retinopathy has progressed to the proliferative stage, surgery is necessary. The most common surgical treatment of diabetic retinopathy is photocoagulation. Photocoagulation is performed to slow or stop the leakage of fluid and blood in the eye. During the laser treatment, leaks stemming from abnormal blood vessels are treated. After the photocoagulation treatment, the vision may be blurry for about a day after the procedure. The photocoagulation procedure is an effective way to seal existing leaks in the blood vessels. If new leaks develop, the procedure may be repeated.
Ensuring the Health of the Eyes
To learn more about the symptoms and treatments of diabetic retinopathy, please contact Choate Eye Associates today.