Diabetes is an all too common disease that can have disastrous effects on the body across the board. Eyes are no exception.
Diabetes is often linked to several vision problems including cataract development and glaucoma. One condition in particular actually includes diabetes in the title: diabetic retinopathy.
This disease may start off damaging vision in small, sometimes even unnoticeable ways. It can progress dramatically, eventually leading to blindness.
What Causes Diabetic Retinopathy?
In order for the eyes to remain healthy, a supply of blood must be constantly delivered to them. This is done through tiny vessels, many of which are located in the retina.
As important as they are, these blood vessels are also quite fragile. If blood sugar remains elevated for a long period of time, these vessels can become blocked.
This reduces the flow of fresh blood to the retina. This is the first stage of diabetic retinopathy called nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy, or NPDR.
As blood vessels weaken during NPDR, microaneurysms may form. This may look like small bulges coming off of the vessel walls.
The retinal vessels and nerve fibers can begin to swell. They then start leaking blood and other fluids and causing another condition called macular edema.
But NDPR is not the biggest problem. The main issue comes with cutting off the blood supply.
When this happens, the surrounding blood vessels will usually grow new blood vessels. They then close off the original blood vessels.
These new blood vessels are even more delicate than the original ones. The new blood vessels leak more fluid in the inside of the eye.
This stage of the disease is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy, or advanced diabetic retinopathy. The damage caused by this can lead to many other problems such as:
- Complete retinal detachment
- Hemorrhaging of the jelly-like vitreous inside of your eye
- Total blindness
How to Know if You Have Diabetic Retinopathy
As with any eye problems, consult a doctor if you notice changes to your vision. Only a trained professional can diagnose you with diabetic retinopathy. After diagnosis, your eye doctor can then come up with the most effective treatment plan.
If diabetic retinopathy is something you’re concerned about, take these risk factors into consideration. Make sure to communicate with your eye doctor so you can discuss them together. Risk factors to watch out for include:
- Longstanding, untreated diabetes
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Ethnicity (African-American, Hispanic, Native American)
If you notice these symptoms, these are often signs of diabetic retinopathy or another eye condition:
- An increase in floaters in your vision
- Poor color vision
- General vision loss
If you are worried that you may have diabetic retinopathy know that proper preventative measures can make a difference. This, combined with treatment, can save your vision or prevent you from losing any eyesight.
Looking for diabetic retinopathy treatment options? Schedule an appointment at Colorado Eye Consultants in Littleton, CO to talk to our ophthalmologists!