Diabetic retinopathy is a serious eye condition that can cause vision loss and blindness in people who have diabetes. The blood vessels in the retina are directly affected by diabetes.
It is estimated that Diabetic retinopathy affects around one-third of people suffering from diabetes. If you have diabetes, we recommend that you book an eye exam at least once a year. The symptoms relating to this condition are often hard to spot, so it’s important that we catch any changes early to ensure we protect your vision.
What are the symptoms?
There are many different symptoms associated with diabetic retinopathy.
Spots or dark strings floating in your vision (floaters)
Impaired color vision
Dark or empty areas in your vision
“This image was originally published in the Retina Image Bank® website.
Author and Photographer: Awaneesh M Upadhyay, MBBS, DNB. Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy. Retina Image Bank. 2018; 27970. © the American Society of Retina Specialists."
What are the causes of Diabetic Retinopathy?
It is estimated by the CDC that 4.1 million Americans are affected with diabetic retinopathy, and nearly 900,000 Americans are threatened with vision-damaging retinopathy.
Shown below are the causes.
Excessive blood sugar levels
High blood pressure
There are four different stages of the disease. If you recognize any of the symptoms please make an appointment to visit the Annan Retina Eye Clinic immediately so we can help you address the issue as early as possible.
Stage 1 – Mild Non-proliferative Retinopathy
At this stage tiny protrusions in the retinalblood vessels are formed. This causes fluid to leak into the retina. This sign may cause blurred vision because of swelling in the macula. At this stage symptoms are hard to spot as they are usually incredibly mild in nature.
Stage 2 – Moderate Non-proliferative Retinopathy
This is where the swelling in the retina becomes more severe and more bleeding in the retina. You may notice a change in vision or even vision loss as the buildup of fluid in the macula increases.
Stage 3 - Severe Non-proliferative Retinopathy
You may notice blurry vision with dark spots as the blood vessels become completely blocked. At this point the retina tries to grow new blood vessels to compensate for the blockage.
Stage 4 - Proliferative Retinopathy
You may notice increased spotty vision, flashes of lights or even severe vision loss. This is a result of the retina being starved of oxygen and so new blood vessels grow inside the retina causing them to leak and bleed. Proliferation of blood vessels into the vitreous may cause tractional retinal detachment.
What treatments are available?
The Annan Retina Eye Center offers several treatments for diabetic retinopathy.
Injections – We inject medication (anti-VEGF) directly into the eye as a treatment to help stop the growth of new blood vessels. The injections work to block the growth signals and subsequently the generation of new blood vessels, it also makes the blood vessels leak less.
Laser Therapy – This is an effective form of treatment. It is more commonly used in patients who have more advanced symptoms of diabetic retinopathy.
Focal Laser Therapy – This procedure is performed in order to reduce the amount of fluid or blood leaking in the eye. The Focal Laser Therapy works by stimulating the retinal pigment epithelium to pump fluid out, and laser the protrusions in the blood vessels to prevent leakage.
Scatter Laser – This treatment is again administered by laser in the peripheral retina which causes the abnormal new blood vessels to shrink in size.
Eye Surgery (Vitrectomy Surgery) – This treatment is recommended in patients who have advanced diabetic retinopathy and where other possible laser treatments will not be effective on their own.
The Annan Retina Eye Center can offer treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy please schedule a visit with Dr El Annan at the Annan Retina Eye Center. Please call 346-22A-NNAN to speak to a member of staff who will be more than happy to help you.