Eye disease caused by diabetes is currently the number one cause of irreversible blindness and vision loss. Due to the increased risk in diabetic patients, doctors recommend that people with diabetes get an annual dilated eye exam.
Diabetic retinopathy starts with metabolic damage to the fine blood vessels of the retina. Patients with diabetes often have extended periods with elevated blood sugar. The high levels of blood sugar cause damage to the walls of the retinal blood vessels and leave them susceptible to leaking. When fluid accumulates in the retina or macula, it causes vision loss.
Leaking and bleeding vessels mean an interruption of the oxygen-carrying abilities of these vessels, so when prolonged high blood sugar levels the retina can be oxygen-depleted. This causes the abnormal growth of new blood vessels and is called neovascularization. New blood vessels are weak and prone to even more leaking. Excessive bleeding or fluid leakage into the eye can cause blindness.
It is essential to catch the condition in the earlier stages to reduce the effects. This can also help patients understand the importance of monitoring their blood sugar so that repeat events can be limited. Treatment options are even more successful when diabetic retinopathy is caught early. These options include vitrectomy and photocoagulation intended to improve oxygen flow.
Retinopathy affects every person and even the same pair of eyes differently. A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t possible, and it is important to talk to your medical professional about which options or treatment plans are right for you.
It’s important to continue to learn about how you can manage diabetes to avoid the progression of diabetic retinopathy. Make sure to use the tools that are available to you. Test your blood glucose daily or use a continuous glucose meter, schedule your regular doctor appointments and annual exams, and learn to listen to your body. Managing your diabetes with a complete health plan preserves your quality of life and helps to stop further vision loss.