In addition to its other symptoms, diabetes may cause serious changes in the eye as well. Conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, occasional blurring and, most importantly, changes in the blood vessels at the back of the eyeball may effect sight.
WHAT IS DIABETIC RETINOPATHY?
Diabetic retinopathy is an eye complication caused by the deterioration of the blood vessels nourishing the retina at the back of the eye. These weakened blood vessels may leak blood, develop fragile brush-like branches, and become enlarged in certain places. This damages or scars the retina, causing the visual image to the brain to become blurred.
The longer a patient has had diabetes, the greater their risk of developing retinopathy. About 60% of patients having diabetes for 15 years or more have some blood vessel damage in their eyes.
CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS
While the diabetic retinopathy is not completely understood, it is known that diabetes weakens small blood vessels in various areas of the body. Though gradual blurring of vision may occur, sight is usually unaffected by background retinopathy, and changes in the eye can go unnoticed.
DETECTION AND DIAGNOSIS
It is vital that diabetic patients schedule a regular comprehensive eye examination with Dr. Ceravolo. This is the best protection against the progression of diabetic retinopathy.
To detect diabetic retinopathy, the doctor painlessly examines the interior of the eye using an instrument called an ophthalmoscope. The interior of the eye may also be photographed to provide further information. If diabetic retinopathy is noted, a special examination may be used to determine which blood vessels are bleeding or leaking fluid. A fluorescent dye is injected into the patient’s arm. The dye travels through the bloodstream and passes into the blood vessels of the retina. Photographs are taken rapidly as it leaks through the retina’s blood vessels. This technique, called fluorescein angiography, is used to determine if further treatment is necessary.
When diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed, the doctor considers the patient’s age, history, lifestyle and the degree of damage to the retina before deciding on treatment or continued monitoring of the progress of the disease. In many cases treatment is not needed; in others, treatment is recommended to halt the damage of the diabetic retinopathy and sometimes to improve sight.
The most significant treatment is laser surgery to seal or photocoagulate the leaking blood vessels. Another treatment is a vitrectomy, where the blood-filled vitreous is removed from the eye and replaced with a clear, artificial solution.
Successful treatment of diabetic retinopathy depends not only on early detection with monitoring and treatment, but also on the patient’s attitude and self-care. All medications should be taken and diet to control diabetes should be followed as directed.
LOSS OF VISION IS LARGELY PREVENTABLE
Early detection of diabetic retinopathy is the best protection against sight loss. A regular comprehensive exam with Dr. Ceravolo is important to detect any change in your eyes. Even when retinopathy symptoms are not noticed, you should schedule yearly eye examinations at least once a year. Dr. Ceravolo will determine if your eye examination should be scheduled more frequently after diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed. In most cases, with careful monitoring, treatment can begin before sight is affected.