Understanding the Diabetic Eye

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Diabetes of the eye, or diabetic retinopathy, is a medical condition that affects the eyes. It is the most common complication among people with diabetes, and the leading cause of vision impairment.

What Causes Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is the result of chronically high blood sugar which damages the tiny blood vessels in the retina, the part of the eye sensitive to light that coordinates nerve impulses to the brain. Damage to the retina can lead to permanent blindness due to the leakage of fluid or bleeding in the eye. In advanced stages of the disease, new blood cells proliferate in the eye, causing visual impairment.

What Are the Symptoms?

Retinopathy has virtually no symptoms until it affects the vision. But as the condition progress, the damage to the blood vessel causes bleeding and leads to the appearance of floating spots on the eye. However, sometimes the spots can diminish on their own, but if untreated, the condition can lead to permanent vision loss.

Retinopathy symptoms:

  • White spots in the center of your vision
  • Night vision difficulty
  • Blurred vision

Prevention

Since high blood glucose levels play a role in the development of diabetes of the eye, we recommend those at risk for diabetes or diabetics to monitor their blood glucose levels. If diagnosed and treated early, there’s a 90% chance of preventing blindness. Eliminating foods high in sugar and engaging in physical exercise can help in preventing retinopathy.

What Are the Treatments?

Focal/Grid Macular Laser Surgery—In this procedure, rounds of laser beams are sent to the leaking blood vessels in the macula part of the retina to slow the leakage of fluid in the eye and reduce swelling. We recommend individuals at risk to visit an ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam as the treatment is effective if performed before vision loss. The purpose of the treatment is to maintain the current vision and to prevent the progression of the disease.

Anti-VGEF Injection Therapy—This treatment involves the injection of drugs on the vitreous gel fluid surrounding the eye which blocks a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), responsible for the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the eye. VEGF can reverse abnormal cell growth and reduce vision impairment.

Vitrectomy

Vitrectomy is the surgical removal of the vitreous gel in the center of the eye. This is performed to under anesthesia to treat severe and decrease edema in the eye.

Although the available treatments are effective in correcting retinopathy, prevention is better than cure and, if untreated, diabetic disease of the eye can lead to permanent blindness. Individuals with chronic high blood glucose levels are at risk for developing retinopathy. We recommend scheduling an appointment with Dr. Harry. W. Chan, OD, to get a comprehensive eye exam.

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