Diabetic Retinopathy Is The Most Common Form Of Diabetic Eye Disease That Causes Vision Loss

There Is A Relationship Between Eye Diseases, Blindness, And Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in people 20 to 74 years of age in the United States. It is the most common form of diabetic eye disease and can lead to vision loss. Early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up care have the potential to reduce the severity of Diabetic Retinopathy disease. Blindness and Diabetic Eye Disease are related and serious conditions that impact an individual lifestyle and livelihood.

November 2023 is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, and it’s crucial to comprehend that diabetes, a condition that affects millions of people globally, can also silently jeopardize our vision. While controlling blood sugar levels is the primary way to manage diabetes, it’s crucial to note that the illness can damage the blood vessels in the retina and the tissue at the back of the eye, which can lead to Diabetic Retinopathy (DR). Uncontrolled blood sugar is a significant risk factor that can worsen Diabetic Retinopathy, leading to a range of complications.

  • The retina does not get enough oxygen and nutrients
  • Blood vessels can leak blood into the retina
  • The abnormal blood vessels associated with diabetic retinopathy stimulate the growth of scar tissue, which can pull the retina away from the back of the eye
  • There are usually spots floating in your vision, flashes of light, or severe vision loss.

People who have diabetes are more likely to come down with blinding eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts. Nevertheless, recent studies have discovered low awareness of this issue, especially among ethnicities at higher risk for diabetes. As a result, the findings illustrate that many Americans may not be defending themselves against diabetes-related vision loss, therefore inspiring the American Academy of Ophthalmology to encourage those with diabetes to take proactive steps to protect their vision.

Approximately 30 percent of diabetics suffer from diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes-related blindness costs projection is approximately $500 million per year. Patients with diabetic retinopathy medical cost is higher than those individuals with other related diabetes-related diseases. Vision loss and blindness in cost in the U.S. average about $16,838 per person.

TRACK 

  • TAKE your medication as prescribed by your doctor
  • REACH and maintain a healthy weight
  • ADD more physical activities to your daily routine
  • CONTROL Your ABS’s: A1c, Blood Pressure, and Cholesterol Level
  • KICK the smoking habit

Source: NIH and NEHEP

Early Symptoms Include:

  • Floaters
  • Blurriness
  • Dark areas of vision
  • Difficulty perceiving colors
  • Poor night vision
  • Loss of vision
  • Change in colors

Mild cases may be treated with careful diabetes management. Advanced cases may require laser treatment or surgery.

During the early stages of Diabetic Retinopathy:

  • The current blood vessels in the eye can become swollen and blocked, and leak blood and fluid into the retina, and there may be no visual symptoms.
  • If undetected and not managed, Diabetic Retinopathy can get worse over time. Once it reaches the moderate stages, the bleeding continues and visual symptoms may begin to appear.

If allowed to reach the advanced stage, proliferative, there will be an increased number of new blood vessels that are fragile and easily damaged resulting in swelling and leaking.  The non-proliferative and proliferative phases are (Source: Healthline.com):

Proliferative And Nonproliferative Diabetic Retinopathy Stages

Stage 1: Mild nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy

This is the earliest stage of diabetic retinopathy, characterized by tiny areas of swelling in the blood vessels of the retina. These areas of swelling are known as microaneurysms.

Small amounts of fluid can leak into the retina at this stage, thus triggering swelling of the macula. This is an area near the center of the retina.

Stage 2: Moderate nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy

Increased swelling of tiny blood vessels starts to interfere with blood flow to the retina, preventing proper nourishment. This causes an accumulation of blood and other fluids in the macula.

  • It is important to note that Diabetic Macular Edema(DME) is a complication of DR, and occurs if the macula, the area of the retina at the back of the eye responsible for sharp central vision. DME currently affects more than 28 million people with diabetes.
  • DME is caused by disruption of the blood-retinal barrier due to long-term hyperglycemia (high blood glucose), leading to retinal thickening around the fovea.

Stage 3: Severe nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy

A larger section of blood vessels in the retina becomes blocked, causing a significant decrease in blood flow to this area. At this point, the body receives signals to start growing new blood vessels in the retina.

Stage 4: Proliferative diabetic retinopathy

This is an advanced stage of the disease, in which new blood vessels form in the retina. Since these blood vessels are often fragile, there’s a higher risk of fluid leakage. This triggers different vision problems such as blurriness, reduced field of vision, and even blindness.

If you believe you are experiencing any of the above symptoms you must contact us immediately. We can evaluate the following to determine if you are suffering from DR:

  • Visual acuity
  • Eye muscle movement
  • Peripheral vision
  • Depth perception
  • The curvature of the cornea

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