Diabetic Retinopathy

diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy encompasses several types, each with its own characteristics and impact on vision. It develops when high blood sugar levels damage blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. 

The stages of diabetic retinopathy include: 

    • Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR): In this stage, small blood vessels in the retina weaken and may leak fluid or blood. NPDR may not cause noticeable symptoms initially but requires close monitoring as it can progress from mild or moderate, to more severe stages, which may require intervention.
    • Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR): As NPDR advances, the damaged blood vessels trigger the growth of abnormal new blood vessels. These new blood vessels are very weak, causing significant bleeding and fluid release, and tend to expand quickly, leading to vision impairment or blindness if left untreated. 
    • Diabetic macular edema (DME): This complication occurs when fluid accumulates in the macula, the central part of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision. DME can cause swelling and thickening of the fovea (center of the macula), leading to blurred or distorted vision and potentially severe vision loss. DME can occur at any stage of retinopathy, not just severe NPDR or PDR.

Early detection of diabetic retinopathy and DME is crucial for preventing vision loss. Regular eye exams, often with specialized tests like Optos Optomap wide-field imaging, optical coherence tomography (OCT), and electroretinogram (ERG), are essential for monitoring the condition's progression. 

Managing diabetes through proper blood sugar control and blood pressure management with your primary care physician as well as a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of developing these complications. 

Treatment options for diabetic retinopathy and DME vary depending on the stage and severity of the condition. Treatments may include laser therapy, injections of medications into the eye, and, in some cases, surgery to remove scar tissue or blood from the vitreous. Prompt intervention can help preserve vision and prevent further damage to the eyes and potential permanent blindness.

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