08 Nov What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is the scientific name for diabetic eye disease.
When blood sugar levels stay too high for too long your tiny blood vessels called capillaries can be damaged. Designed to carry blood to your retina, these capillaries can start leaking fluids and fats and cause tissue swelling (edema). When the capillaries close off (called ischemia), new abnormal blood vessels start to grow on the retina causing damage that can permanently affect your vision and even lead to blindness.
Did you know that diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in Canada? Diabetes and eye problems are commonly linked.
People with diabetes are also prone to developing cataracts at an earlier age.
Is Diabetic Retinopathy Preventable?
Having a routine eye exam will increase the likelihood that any vision changes you might be experiencing will be caught early. Another good preventative measure is to maintain control of your diabetes. This helps minimize the probability of the disease developing.
What are the Common Symptoms?
In early stages there are few noticeable symptoms of retinopathy so this is what makes regular eye examination so important. Eventually as retinopathy worsens and serious damage to your retina occurs, you will start to experience:
- Blurring vision
- Lights that flash in the range of your vision
- Sudden vision loss
- Spots or blotches that appear in your vision
Diabetic Retinopathy Treatments
While there is no cure for diabetic retinopathy, laser treatment can be used to prevent further vision loss if done before the retina is too severely damaged. Other diabetic retinopathy treatment options include vitrectomy (surgical removal of the vitreous gel) and anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) injections.
Diabetic Retinopathy Screening
Should everyone be screened for retinopathy?
Regular screening for retinopathy is very important because early detection can mean more and better treatment options and improved chances of preserving your vision.
How frequent one should be screening for retinopathy will vary according to the individual, their age, and type of diabetes they have.
Here is a very general guideline for diabetic retinopathy screening. Please consult your optometrist for your own screening plan.
- Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetics should be screened annually starting shortly after a diagnosis is made.
- Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetic women hoping to become pregnant should consider screening prior to conception.
- It is also common for the diabetic retinopathy to be discovered BEFORE a diabetic diagnosis is made, and it’s not uncommon for patients to find out they are diabetic based off the results of their eye exam; which is another reason we encourage everyone to have a comprehensive eye exam annually.
Still Have Questions?
Our Markham optometrists Dr. David Innamorato, Dr. Krista Innamorato, and Dr. Mark Innamorato would be happy to help put together a proper diabetic retinopathy care plan to help protect and preserve your vision. We also offer OCT scans to help detect, diagnose and treat various diseases including diabetes.