Diabetic Retinopathy

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes which can lead to blindness. Diabetic causes abnormalities in the tiny blood vessels nourishing the retina. These vessels weaken, leak fluid and blood, and fail to provide nutrients necessary for good health in the retina. Left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can result in severe visual loss, including blindness.

Causes of Diabetic Retinopathy

The cause of diabetic retinopathy is not completely understood. Diabetes weakens small blood vessels in various areas of the body, including the retina. Unfortunately, the development of diabetic retinopathy cannot be prevented.

The earliest phase of the disease is known as nonproliferative or background diabetic retinopathy. In this phase damage to blood vessels in the retina causes them to leak fluid or bleed.. This can cause swelling or edema in the retina and decreased vision.

In the next stage, proliferative diabetic retinopathy, circulation problems cause areas of the retina to become oxygen-deprived or ischemic. New vessels develop as the circulatory system attempts to maintain adequate oxygen levels within the retina, however these are delicate vessels which hemorrhage easily. Blood may leak into the retina and vitreous, causing spots or floaters, along with decreased vision.

In the later phases of the disease, continued abnormal vessel growth and scar tissue may cause serious problems such as retinal detachment and glaucoma.

Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment

Diabetic retinopathy can be treated with laser surgery, known as laser photocoagulation, to seal off leaking blood vessels and destroy new growth. Laser photocoagulation doesn't cause pain because the retina does not contain nerve endings.

Laser surgery has been used in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy for over 20 years and the benefits have been clearly established. Laser surgery is used to treat both diabetic macular edema and proliferative diabetic retinopathy:

In some patients, blood leaks into the vitreous humor and clouds vision. The eye doctor may choose to simply wait to see if the clouding will dissipate on its own, a period called "watchful waiting." A procedure called a vitrectomy removes blood that has leaked into the vitreous humor. The body gradually replaces lost vitreous humor, and vision usually improves.

If diabetic retinopathy has caused cataracts, these can be surgically removed.

Eye Treatments

Eye conditions

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