Diabetic Retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that affects the eyes. It is the leading cause of blindness in people aged 20-74 in the United States. In this article, we will discuss what Diabetic Retinopathy is, its causes, treatments, and precautions. We will also provide information about resources for those affected by this condition.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that can develop in people who have diabetes. It occurs when the small blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye, become damaged. The damaged vessels may leak blood or other fluids, blurring vision. In some cases, new vessels may grow on the retina. These new vessels are fragile and can leak easily, causing further vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy often has no early symptoms, so it is important for people with diabetes to have regular eye examinations. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent vision loss from diabetic retinopathy.
Causes Of Diabetic Retinopathy
Now, let’s discuss some of the causes of diabetic retinopathy.
1. High blood sugar levels
One of the primary causes of diabetic retinopathy is high blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels are too high, they can damage the blood vessels in the retina, the sensitive tissue at the back of the eye responsible for vision. Over time, this damage can lead to diabetic retinopathy.
2. High blood pressure
High blood pressure is another common cause of diabetic retinopathy. When blood pressure is too high, it can damage the blood vessels in the retina, leading to diabetic retinopathy.
Smoking is a major risk factor for developing diabetic retinopathy. Smoking damages the blood vessels in the body and makes them more susceptible to damage from high blood sugar levels and high blood pressure.
Obesity is another risk factor for developing diabetic retinopathy. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing high blood sugar levels and high blood pressure, which can damage the blood vessels in the retina.
5. Family history
Having a family member with diabetic retinopathy also increases your risk of developing the condition. This is likely due to genetic factors that make some people more susceptible to developing diabetic retinopathy than others.
Treatments for Diabetic Retinopathy
There are several treatments for diabetic retinopathy, depending on the severity of the condition.
1. Laser therapy
In mild cases of diabetic retinopathy, laser therapy can help seal off leaking blood vessels and reduce vision loss. The procedure involves shining a laser light into the eye to destroy the abnormal blood vessels. Laser therapy is usually performed on an outpatient basis and does not require anesthesia. In most cases, the procedure can be done in one or two sessions. After laser therapy, patients will need to be monitored closely for signs of disease progression. However, with early intervention, laser therapy can effectively preserve vision in patients with diabetic retinopathy.
In severe cases, anti-VEGF drug injections can help reduce swelling in the eye and prevent further vision loss. The injections are usually given every four to six weeks, and multiple injections may be needed over time. While the injections can effectively reduce vision loss, they are not a cure for diabetic retinopathy and do not reverse any damage that has already occurred.
In some cases, surgery may be needed to help treat diabetic retinopathy. Surgery can involve either removing the abnormal blood vessels or sealing them off using laser therapy. Surgery is usually reserved for severe cases of diabetic retinopathy and should only be performed by a qualified ophthalmologist.
Vitrectomy is a surgical procedure that involves removing the vitreous gel from the eye and replacing it with a gas or silicone bubble. This can help to reduce swelling in the retina and prevent further vision loss.
Photocoagulation is a laser therapy used to seal leaking blood vessels. The procedure involves shining a laser light into the eye in order to destroy the abnormal vessels. Photocoagulation is usually reserved for severe cases of diabetic retinopathy and can be effective in preserving vision if done early enough.
Precautions for Diabetic Retinopathy
Here are some steps to help prevent or reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy:
1. Monitor blood sugar levels.
Monitoring your blood sugar levels is the best way to help prevent diabetic retinopathy. Keeping your blood sugar levels within a healthy range can help reduce the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy or slow its progression if it has already started.
2. Control high blood pressure.
High blood pressure can damage the delicate blood vessels in the retina and lead to diabetic retinopathy. Keeping your blood pressure within a healthy range is important for preventing or slowing diabetic retinopathy.
3. Quit smoking.
Smoking increases your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy as it damages the fragile blood vessels in the eye. If you are a smoker, it is important to quit to help reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy or slow its progression if it has already started.
4. Monitor your eyes regularly.
Regular eye exams can help diagnose diabetic retinopathy early and allow for earlier treatment to prevent vision loss. It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions and have regular eye exams to monitor for any changes in vision.
5. Follow a healthy lifestyle.
Following a healthy lifestyle is important for reducing the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy or slowing its progression if it has already started. Eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding smoking can all help reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes that can cause vision loss. Early detection and treatment are important to prevent or slow its progression. Monitor your blood sugar levels, control high blood pressure, quit smoking, have regular eye exams, and follow a healthy lifestyle. These all help reduce the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy or slow its progression if it has already started. TGH Urgent Care powered by Fast Track is here to help with any questions you may have about diabetic retinopathy and provide quality care and treatment.
The blogs presented by TGH Urgent Care in partnership with Fast Track are not a replacement for medical care and are exclusively intended for educational purposes. The content provided here should not be construed as medical guidance. If you are encountering any symptoms, we strongly recommend that you seek an appointment with a duly qualified medical practitioner at our nearest facility.