Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that affects the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive layer of tissue in the back of the eye. It occurs when too much blood sugar damages the blood vessels in the retina. Diabetes affects blood vessels all over the body. The eyes are harmed when sugar blocks the tiny vessels that travel to the retina causing the vessels to leak blood or fluid. Symptoms are unnoticeable at first, but as diabetic retinopathy progresses, mild vision changes will occur and can lead to blindness. In fact, diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness for those aged 20 to 74.
How is diabetic retinopathy diagnosed? For starters, anyone diagnosed with diabetes is at risk for diabetic retinopathy. The most accurate diagnosis begins with a comprehensive eye exam checking for visual acuity, intraocular pressure to rule out glaucoma, eye muscle function, peripheral vision and pupil response. Next, the pupils of the eyes will be dilated giving the doctor a better view of the inside of the eyes specifically checking for any abnormalities including blood vessel growth, bleeding in the center of the eye and retina swelling. Your doctor may offer 2 tests called fluorescein angiography and optical coherence tomography (OCT). Fluorescein angiography involves injecting a fluorescent dye into the vein of the arm then uses a specialized camera to take images of the blood flow in the retina and choroid at the back of the eye. Optical coherence tomography is a non-invasive imaging test that uses light waves to determine retinal thickness to aid in early detection of diabetic retinopathy and other retinal diseases and conditions.
Diabetic retinopathy cannot be reversed, but it can be treated. Early detection and treatment can reduce the risk of blindness by 95%. Blood pressure management and glucose control are crucial factors in limiting the progression of diabetic retinopathy. Treatment options for diabetic retinopathy vary. In the early stages, most doctors will monitor a patient’s vision with more frequent appointments. Other treatments include injections, laser treatment, vitrectomy and combined therapy.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, protecting your vision with a comprehensive exam is the best defense against diabetic retinopathy progression. Contact Eye Institute of South Jersey, P.C. at 856-205-1100 or WEBSITE today to learn more about diagnostic testing for diabetic retinopathy.