Diabetic Retinopathy: Symptoms and Treatment Options

human eye

Regular eye exams and timely treatment are the keys to controlling diabetic retinopathy and preventing vision loss.

Diabetes affects approximately 30 million Americans, 80-85% of whom will develop some degree of diabetic retinopathy in their lifetimes. Retinopathy is damage to the blood vessels of the retina — the light-sensitive, nerve-rich tissue at the back of the eye. This complication of diabetes occurs when excess sugar in the blood blocks the blood vessels serving the retina, causing the eye to try to grow new, poorly-developed, leaky blood vessels.

Anyone with diabetes can get diabetic retinopathy, but it is more likely to develop in patients with Type I. Careful management of blood sugar is key to preventing the blood vessel blockages that cause retinopathy. Although there is no cure and the damage cannot be reversed, early detection and treatment can help to slow the progression of retinopathy and prevent vision loss.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes. In its early stages, there are often few visual symptoms — or none at all. If a patient does experience symptoms, these can include mild blurriness, floaters, or sudden loss of vision. Without treatment, the disease progresses from early diabetic retinopathy to advanced diabetic retinopathy, which can cause permanent damage the retina and lead to extensive vision loss or even blindness.

Because diabetic retinopathy can be asymptomatic, patients living with diabetes should have regular eye exams, even if they aren’t actively experiencing symptoms.

Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is most effectively prevented by careful management of blood sugar, blood pressure, and weight. Vision loss can also be prevented by scheduling regular eye exams and contacting an eye doctor if you notice any changes in your vision.

In the event that a patient does develop retinopathy, timely treatment can slow or halt the progression of the disease and prevent serious vision problems. Your Swagel Wootton Eye Institute team will work with you to select the right treatment plan, which may include one or more of the following options:

  • Laser surgery is used to control and shrink leaking blood vessels and prevent the growth of new blood vessels.
  • In a vitrectomy, blood and scar tissue is removed by making a tiny incision in the eye.
  • Intravitreal injections stop the growth of new blood vessels with inhibitors introduced directly into the eye.

While vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy cannot be reversed, prompt treatment can significantly reduce the risk of further progression of the disease and blindness.

Swagel Wootton Eye Institute has both the equipment and the expertise to diagnose and treat diabetic retinopathy using a comprehensive approach. Schedule a consultation today to begin the important process of controlling your diabetic retinopathy.

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