Diabetic Retinopathy involves swelling, leaking or abnormal growth of blood vessels in or near the retina. This is triggered primarily by blockages in the blood vessels caused by abnormal blood sugar levels. As the vessels become blocked, the eye attempts to grow new blood vessels but these tend to be abnormally shaped and also tend to leak which results in a gradually degradation in your vision. There are multiple stages to this disease, the earliest of which may not present any symptoms that you can see.
As the disease progresses, symptoms that you can see may include dark or black spots in your vision that increase over time, dark areas in your line of sight, color loss or severely blurred vision due to bleeding within the eye.
That’s why comprehensive eye exams are so important when dealing with diabetes and eye sight—both type 1 and type 2 diabetics are at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, and the longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop some form of the disease. Diabetics are usually encouraged by their health care management teams to have annual diabetic eye exams, and woman that are pregnant are often encouraged to have multiple eye exams during the pregnancy as diabetic retinopathy tends to worsen during pregnancy.
There is no cure for diabetic retinopathy which makes careful management of your diabetes in order to prevent the onset of retinopathy your first goal. Once it starts though, there are treatments for diabetic retinopathy which include replacement of the inner gel inside the eye (called a vitrectomy) and different kinds of laser surgery. A recent clinical trial also suggested that better control of blood sugar levels slows the onset and progression of the disease in many patients.
Dr. Martin Arkin and his team specialize in working with diabetic management teams to screen for and detect diabetic retinopathy, and once found to help manage the disease. If you are a diabetic you should set up an eye exam and begin the screening process- it might just save your vision!