Did You Know That Diabetes Can Affect Your Vision?
For many people suffering from diabetes, vision loss is a major concern.
Diabetes is a condition that occurs when your body does not produce enough insulin, the hormone responsible for converting sugars into energy. When diabetes is not properly diagnosed and treated, it can have a devastating impact on your overall health. One of the conditions that can develop as a result of diabetes is diabetic retinopathy, a vision disorder that is the leading cause of blindness among working-age Americans.
There are two types of diabetic retinopathy:
- Nonproliferative retinopathy
- Proliferative retinopathy
Nonproliferative retinopathy is the more common form of the condition. It occurs when blood vessels in the eye become weak, causing blood to leak into the retina. If blood and fluid leaks into the center of your eye, it can result in blurry vision.
As diabetic retinopathy gets worse, these weakened blood vessels close off, and new ones start to grow on the retina. These new blood vessels can easily break open, causing blood to leak into the middle of your eye in front of your retina. Often, this bleeding will result in the formation of scar tissue, which may pull the retina away from the back wall of your eye (retinal detachment).
Unfortunately, most patients with diabetic retinopathy do not exhibit any symptoms until it is too late to treat the condition and prevent vision loss. Because of this, it is important for all people suffering from diabetes to go for regular eye exams as part of their preventative healthcare routine.
Treatment for diabetic retinopathy depends on the type and severity of your condition. Early stages of nonproliferative retinopathy may not require immediate treatment, but you will want to closely monitor the condition in case it becomes worse. Once your condition progresses to severe levels of nonproliferative retinopathy or proliferative retinopathy, surgery may be required. Surgical options include:
- Focal laser treatment — This is performed to slow the leakage of blood into your eye
- Scatter laser treatment — This is performed to shrink abnormal blood vessels
- Vitrectomy — This procedure removes blood from the middle of your eye and gets rid of any scar tissue that is pulling on the retina
While surgery can slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy, it is not a cure for the condition. Diabetes is a lifelong disease, which means you are always susceptible to future retinal damage and vision loss. Therefore, you will need to continue with regular eye exams after treatment to prevent additional damage.