DIABETIC RETINOPATHY is condition where a diabetic persons blood sugar gets too high. When this occurs, the high blood sugar level starts a series of events which end in damaged blood vessel walls.
Blood vessels in the eye are small and delicate. As such, the blood vessels in the eye are easily damaged. The damaged vessels can then leak fluid or bleed, causing the retina to swell and form deposits known as exudates.
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There are two stages of development in Diabetic Retinopathy:
-- In Nonproliferative (Background) Retinopathy, there are tiny leaks. Sometimes they are such small leaks that a red blood cell can not even seep out. Unfortunately, the surrounding fluid can. When this occurs, there is unbalanced nutrition available to the delicate retinal nerves. The result is swelling in and under the retina. If this occurs in the central (macula) region, there may be a loss in vision. However, when this occurs in the peripheral retina, there is usually no significant vision loss noted.
-- In Proliferative Retinopathy, abnormal new and fragile blood vessels form on the retina and can lead to serious vision problems since the abnormal vessels are prone to break and bleed into the vitreous (a clear, jelly-like substance in the center of the eye). The vitreous then becomes clouded with blood and light cannot pass correctly through it to the retina, leading to blurred and distorted vision. Other complications can result if scar tissue develops from the abnormal blood vessels—retinal detachment can take place if the scar tissue pulls the retina from the back of the eye. Also, if the abnormal blood vessels begin to grow on the iris, glaucoma can form. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential.
What are the symptoms?:
Symptoms, while often not present, may include blurriness, blind spots or cloudiness in the vision. Laser and surgical treatments may be used to slow the progression and decrease the risk of vision loss.
What is the treatment?:
Laser surgery can be very helpful for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy. The laser beam can cauterize leaky spots, when focused on the retinal region to be treated. Additionally, the laser is sometimes used in a procedure called "Pan Retinal Photocoagulation" (PRP). Here, a portion of the peripheral retina is lasered in an effort to reduce the demand on oxygen. In this way, the laser stops the retina from calling for the growth of more new blood vessels ("neovascularization") to repair the damage. Those new blood vessels are not healthy vessels. They tend to leak even worse than the normal retinal vessels.
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