Diabetic Retinopathy (sometimes referred to as DR) is a complication of diabetes that damages the blood vessels that supply the retina. Early diagnosis, monitoring, and any necessary treatment are vital, as if left unchecked the condition can cause blindness. 

Diabetic Retinopathy: The facts

  • Risk factors
  • The two types of diabetic retinopathy
  • Blindness

Risk Factors 

Anyone with diabetes is at risk of diabetic retinopathy, whether it’s type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes.

The following factors further raise the risk:

Smoking

Poor blood sugar management

Hypertension

High cholesterol

Pregnancy

The risk increases the longer you have diabetes

The Two Types of Diabetic Retinopathy

There are two forms of the disease:

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR)

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR)

The first is a milder form that usually has no symptoms. The second is a more advanced stage of the condition. This is where new, abnormal blood vessels form within the retina.

Blindness

Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in the U.S.A. It’s estimated that 5.4% of people aged over 40 suffer from the condition, necessitating strict diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment to prevent the condition from progressing to the stage where vision is lost. 

What is the First Sign of Diabetic Retinopathy?

  • Diagnosis
  • Signs and symptoms

Diagnosis

Because there are typically no symptoms associated during the early stages of the condition, diagnosis during a regular eye examination is often the first indication of an issue. This is why anyone with diabetes needs to have check-ups at least once or twice a year.

During the examination the ophthalmologist will look for signs of the following:

Any changes in vision or eye pressure

Abnormalities in the retina itself, blood vessels, and optic nerve

The formation of new blood vessels

Cataracts

Scar tissue

Retinal detachment

Signs and Symptoms

Because of the asymptomatic early stages, when a person notices changes to their vision the condition is likely to have already progressed. Signs of advanced diabetic retinopathy include:

Cobweb-like floating spots or lines

Poor night vision

Impaired color vision

Blurred vision

Patches or streaks

A sudden, total loss of vision

Some people report that the first noticeable sign of diabetic retinopathy is a difficulty in seeing objects at distance or when reading. These signs might be permanent or they may come and go.

How is Diabetic Retinopathy Treated?

  • Treatments
  • Prevention

Treatment

During the early stages, the ophthalmologist will monitor your eyes regularly for any progression of the condition. Later stages warrant more aggressive treatment to prevent your vision from worsening. These might include:

Injections

Laser treatment

Eye surgery

Prevention 

Lowering your risk factors is key to the prevention or progression of the disease. Following a healthy lifestyle, giving up smoking, and controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol are vital. Good diabetes management is by far the most effective step you can take to prevent the condition occurring. Follow your doctor’s advice regarding medication, diet, insulin, etc., and regularly check your blood sugar. Keeping these levels as close to normal as possible is the best defense against diabetic retinopathy.

This, along with regular eye exams, means that your risk of developing life-changing vision deterioration is kept to a minimum.

Diabetic Retinopathy Prevention and Treatment at the West Boca Eye Center

The clinical team at the West Boca Eye Center offers a world-leading service that specializes in the diagnosis, management, and treatment of diabetic retinopathy. Led by a renowned ophthalmologist, Brent Bellotte MD., their expert service ensures the condition is closely monitored and any necessary treatment is promptly carried out.

For anyone who suffers from diabetes, the importance of regular eye exams, as well as an individual awareness of what is the first sign of diabetic retinopathy can’t be overstressed. 

For more information and to book your appointment, visit westbocaeyecenter.com