If you have recently been diagnosed with diabetes or have struggled with it for years, it is essential you know all the possible complications that can develop from this disease. One of the common issues affects your vision called diabetic retinopathy. Many chronic diabetic problems progress slowly, but can you stop diabetic retinopathy from progressing?
Basic Facts About Diabetes
When you have diabetes your blood glucose or blood sugar levels are too high. The hormone insulin helps glucose to flow into your cells and provide the energy you need.
When you have Type 1 diabetes the body does not produce insulin. With Type 2 diabetes your body does not make or use insulin as it should, and the glucose stays in your blood.
There are many long-term or chronic problems that gradually develop:
- Eye disease due to damage to blood vessels
- Foot problems due to nerve damage and reduced blood flow
- Gum disease from bacteria in the mouth
- Kidney disease and high blood pressure
- Sexual and bladder problems from reduced blood flow
- Skin infections that don’t heal
- Heart disease and stroke
That is an imposing list of diabetic issues that must be managed, especially those concerning our eyes.
What Is Diabetic Retinopathy And Its Symptoms?
Diabetes affects even the smallest blood vessels in our body, including our eyes.
When the blood vessels in our eyes are damaged, other cells around them can become damaged or die. The retina is located in the back of the eye and its job is to send visual messages to our brain. If the cells near the retina are damaged, the retina is unable to send clear messages or possibly any at all. Vision loss is the result!
Having high blood pressure and high cholesterol with diabetes increases the risk of diabetic retinopathy.
Symptoms sometimes take a long time to present themselves. In the early stages of the disease there may be little or no symptoms. You will notice changes in your vision either close up or in the distance. Blood vessels in the retina can bleed into the vitreous gel of your eye, and if this occurs, you will see cobwebs and dark floaters in your vision. Glasses will eventually not work anymore as dark spots fill your entire vision.
Sometimes these symptoms will temporarily go away, but this is the time to see Hecht Eye Institute.
Once you have diabetic retinopathy, it cannot be reversed or cured, BUT it can be managed to help slow down its progression.
Management Of Diabetic Retinopathy
You can manage your diabetes and retinopathy with diet, proper use of your insulin, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.
In addition, there are several treatments for diabetic retinopathy including:
- Injections of anti-VEGF drugs to slow down the progression. Corticosteroids can also help.
- Laser treatments to reduce swelling of the retina and to shrink the blood vessels and stop the leaking.
- Surgery is reserved for someone whose retina is bleeding excessively or who has scars. This is known as a vitrectomy.
Having regular eye checkups is essential if you have diabetes. Catching diabetic retinopathy early is the best treatment.