If you have diabetes, it’s not your heart or kidney that you have to protect from high blood sugar. The disease can complicate your vision, too. Continuous high blood sugar can cause the blood vessels in your eye to swell and become blocked, preventing blood supply to the retina, and the part of the eye that receives light to create an image. As the disease progresses, the blood vessels become weak and leak blood or other fluid to the retina, causing blurring of vision. This diabetic complication is called diabetic retinopathy.
Why should I be concerned?
Retinopathy causes significant vision loss, and, if untreated, can lead to blindness. According to the National Institute of Health, retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in America. Currently, there are approximately 16 million people diagnosed with diabetes, but only half are aware they have a diabetic eye disease.
If detected and treated early, however, the impact of retinopathy can be limited.
Does diabetic retinopathy cause vision loss?
If blood glucose stays high, the disease may progress into an advanced stage. The advanced stage is referred to as proliferative retinopathy. Abnormal blood vessels grow along the retina and other areas in the eye. The new blood vessels are weak and break easily, and leak more blood to the retina. The fluid prevents light from being detected by the retina or even from entering the retina. They also pull easily, causing the retina to separate from surrounding tissues (retinal detachment).
In some cases, the liquid leaks into the macula, the part of the eye where the sharpest vision is. The liquid causes the macula to swell, resulting in blurred vision.
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy
Retinopathy starts quietly. There are no noticeable symptoms in the early stage of the disease. By the time you notice changes in your vision, the retina is already severely damaged. Symptoms of advanced retinopathy include:
- Blurred vision
- Floaters or shapes appearing in your field of vision
- Poor night vision
- Impaired color vision
- Sudden blindness
Treatment Options for Diabetic Retinopathy
Treatment will depend on the severity of the disease. Available treatment for retinopathy includes:
- Laser eye surgery (photocoagulation) is used to seal damaged blood vessels and stop leaking of fluid to the retina. It can also prevent abnormal blood vessels from forming.
- Medications (injectable) are used to stop swelling of the blood vessels.
- Vitrectomy is the surgical removal of the vitreous and replacing it with clear liquid.
Can I prevent retinopathy?
If you have diabetes, you are at high risk for developing retinopathy. The good news is there are things you can do to prevent that from happening. These include:
- Controlling blood sugar level through medication
- Eating a healthy and balanced diet
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding smoking and alcohol
Most important, have your eyes screened regularly. Eye doctors at Houston LASIK & Eye, a top LASIK and eye care facility in Houston, recommend that people with diabetes undergo eye examinations at least once or twice a year. Eye exams allow for early detection of any eye problem, and treatment.
Houston LASIK & Eye leads in providing premium LASIK technologies to Houston, Sugar Land, and the surrounding region. The Center’s award-winning medical director introduced revolutionary technologies such as iLASIK to the region. This technology is used by NASA astronauts, Navy SEALS, and Air Force fighter pilots. At Houston LASIK & Eye, you can now receive the same treatment. For more information, please call (281) 240-0478.