Diabetic Retinopathy Q & A
What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when diabetes causes damage to the tiny blood vessels that supply the retina with:
- Vital nutrients
When these blood vessels are damaged, they begin to leak and fail to properly supply the retina. This causes blood spots in the retina and can progress into serious vision problems. Eventually, diabetic retinopathy can result in vision loss if it’s not diagnosed and treated promptly. Both central and peripheral vision may be lost because of diabetic retinopathy.
What are the signs of diabetic retinopathy?
The first sign of diabetic retinopathy is usually blood spots within the retina. While the blood spots may be obvious, the vision is typically still normal at this early point. As diabetic retinopathy progresses, fluid may start to accumulate in the middle of the retina, an area known as the macula. This condition is called macular edema.
How is diabetic retinopathy treated?
In many cases of diabetic retinopathy, Dr. Jones may use the same type of medications used for wet macular degeneration such as Avastin or Eylea injected into the eye. Other treatment options include:
- Treatment with a focal laser
- Steroid injections in the eye
- Vitrectomy, a surgery that helps release traction on the macula
Good control of diabetes is also important for patients who suffer from diabetic retinopathy. This means:
- Eating healthy
- Keeping blood sugar stable
What is proliferative diabetic retinopathy?
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is a more advanced type of diabetic retinopathy. In this condition, the blood vessels within the retina have become so damaged that fresh blood vessels start to grow. These new blood vessels are extremely delicate and thus they leak fluid. They can also bleed out and even allow the eye to fill with blood in some cases. As the blood ages, it develops into scar tissue. This scar tissue then contracts and causes the retina to detach in some cases.
How is proliferative diabetic retinopathy treated?
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is treated by laser in many cases. Additionally, injections of anti-VEGF medications are used in most cases. In cases where excessive bleeding and scar tissue accumulation occurs, a vitrectomy may be needed.