So you're diagnosed with diabetes and your doctor recommended that you have your eyes checked regularly. It's actually due to the damage to the retina at the back of the eye which is a common complication of diabetes. If it is not given medical attention right away, it can get worse and even cause some loss of vision, or blindness in severe cases.
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What is diabetes?
The condition wherein the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood becomes higher than normal is called diabetes. It occurs when your body does not generate enough of the hormone insulin or because the insulin that is produced has a reduced effect. It is a grave disease that can cause problems such as heart disease, kidney failure, amputations and even diabetic eye disease.
What is diabetic eye disease?
Diabetic eye disease is a complication of diabetes that refers to a group of eye problems that can all cause severe vision loss or even blindness. The most common diabetic eye disease is diabetic retinopathy.
Known as the leading cause of blindness in American adults, this disease is the most serious complication of diabetes for the eye. It occurs when blood vessels in the retina change. At times, these vessels increase in size and leak fluid or even close off totally. In other cases, unusual new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. In this condition, both eyes are usually affected but during the early stages, people who have diabetic retinopathy often don't become aware of changes in their vision. As it progresses, it usually causes vision loss which in many cases cannot be transposed or reversed anymore.
There are two types of diabetic retinopathy: nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) and proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR).
Nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy is also called as background retinopathy. It is the earliest stage of the disease condition wherein the tiny blood vessels within the retina leak blood or fluid. This leaking of fluid causes swelling or formation of deposits in the retina. There are some cases wherein deposits of cholesterol or other fats from the blood may leak into the retina.
If you have NPDR, you may not require treatment immediately. However, it is important for your eye doctor to closely monitor your eyes to find out if you need treatment. It is also best to work with your diabetes doctor to determine if there are necessary supplementary steps you can follow to improve your diabetes management.
If this diabetic complication advances, it can cause the larger blood vessels within the retina to become obstructed. This prompts the beginning of the proliferative stage.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is a serious complication of diabetes mellitus.The obstructions in the retina can bring about areas to become starved of oxygen which is known as ischemia. When this occurs, the eye is incited into budding new vessels, a process called neo-vascularization. However, these newly developed blood vessels are atypical and do not provide the retina with apt blood flow.
Wrinkling or detachment of the retina may also occur because these new vessels often comes along with a scar tissue. Between the two types, PDR may cause more severe vision loss because it can affect both central and peripheral vision. If you have PDR, you will require apt surgical treatment. In some cases, surgery is also highly recommended for severe nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy.
Anyone with diabetes can acquire diabetic retinopathy. Between 40-45 percent of those with diagnosed diabetes have some degree of this complication. Hence, it is important to have a yearly eye examination.
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