What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is a common eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in Indian adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina.
If you have diabetic retinopathy, at first you may not notice changes in your vision. But over time, diabetic retinopathy can get worse and cause vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes.
Who is at risk for diabetic retinopathy?
All people with diabetes are at risk. That’s why everyone with diabetes should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. The longer someone has diabetes, the more likely he or she is to get diabetic retinopathy.
During pregnancy, diabetic retinopathy may be a problem for women with diabetes. To protect vision, every pregnant woman with diabetes should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam as soon as possible.
What is the treatment for diabetic retinopathy?
During the initial stages of diabetic retinopathy, no treatment is needed, unless you have swelling of the macula. To prevent progression of diabetic retinopathy, people with diabetes should control their levels of blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol. New leaky blood vessels are treated with laser surgery.
Scatter laser treatment helps to shrink the abnormal blood vessels. Although you may notice some loss of your side vision, scatter laser treatment can save the rest of your sight. This treatment may slightly reduce your color vision and night vision. It works better before the fragile, new blood vessels have started to bleed and it is important to have regular, comprehensive dilated eye exams. If the bleeding is severe, you may need a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy. You may need treatment more than once to protect your sight.
What measures need to be taken to protect my vision?
If you have diabetes, get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year and remember that diabetic retinopathy can develop without symptoms. You can develop both new leaky blood vessels and swelling of the macula and still see fine. However, you are at high risk for vision loss.
Your eye care professional can tell if you have diabetic retinopathy. Whether or not you have symptoms, early detection and timely treatment can prevent vision loss.