Diabetic Retinopathy is associated with diabetes and is caused by the breakage of tiny blood vessels in the retina, due to high blood sugar, resulting in hemorrhages on or in the retina. Untreated diabetes or poor diabetes maintenance and blood sugar regulation can greatly increase the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Depending on the severity of the disease, sight can remain near normal or it can be lost entirely. Remaining vision may be blurred or distorted, or the hemorrhaging may even cause a deep reddish veil to form over the field of vision. Laser surgery is often effective, but the patient must cooperate afterward by managing the diabetes carefully through medication, diet, exercise and frequent monitoring of blood sugar.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF DIABETIC RETINOPATHY?
In the early stages, there may be no symptoms, which is why an annual eye exam is recommended, especially for diabetics who have chronically high blood sugar levels. As the disease progresses, the tiny blood vessels in the eye begin to break and cause swelling in the retinal tissue and the patient can experience cloudy or blurry vision. Further complications can include floating spots, dark patches, and can lead to total blindness if untreated. These symptoms typically affect both eyes indiscriminately.
- Cloudy or blurry vision
- Floating spots or “floaters”
- Dark patches
- Difficulty seeing at night
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call 1-800-BRAILLE for a free consultation. All of our programs and services are entirely free.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF DIABETIC RETINOPATHY?
Retinopathy is caused by damage to the retina resulting in vision impairment. The retina is the light-sensitive inner layer of the eye ball. It is rich with blood vessels and serves an important role in the projection and relay of visual signals. When the retina is damaged, a number of visual impairments can occur. Damage to the retina typically occurs from leaking blood vessels in the retina, or in severe cases, detachment of the retinal lining from the back of the eye ball.
Diabetes is a disease characterized by a decrease in the body’s natural ability to regulate and maintain stable levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood stream. Individuals with diabetes are especially susceptible to retina damage due to this difficulty in stabilizing blood sugar levels. Diabetic retinopathy affects both Type I and Type II Diabetics. Chronically high blood sugar (glucose) associated with diabetes causes an accumulation of fluid in the retina and a bursting of the retina’s tiny blood vessels. In an attempt to restore circulation to the damaged area, new, irregular blood vessels may form, which are exceptionally susceptible to bursting.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR DIABETIC RETINOPATHY?
The first step in treating diabetic retinopathy is the controlled management of diet and keeping blood sugar levels at a normal level. In later stages, laser treatment has been shown to be effective in regaining some vision. Eye injections of specialized medicines can also address abnormal growth of blood vessels. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause total blindness.
If you are living with symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, call 1-800-BRAILLE or visit one of our 6 locations for a consultation or to learn about our independent living skills classes to help you continue living a fulfilling life.