According to the National Eye Institute, it is estimated that nearly 5.4 million Americans, ages 18 and over, currently have diabetic retinopathy. This eye disease causes over 8,000 cases of new blindness annually and is the primary cause of blindness for people ages 25 to 74 (Valero and Drouilhet, 2001).
It is recommended that every patient with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam at least once a year.
Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in American adults. In the majority of diabetic retinopathy cases, blindness is completely preventable. Patients will need to work closely with their Thomas Eye Group diabetic retina eye doctors to monitor and treat this disease. The use of medications and daily blood sugar monitoring can make a major impact on preventing or containing any worsening of diabetic retinopathy.
The retina is like the film in a camera; the light-sensing film on the inside, back of the eye that captures the images. In the diabetic, sugar (glucose) builds up within blood vessels in the retina and tissues of the body causing it to attach to the proteins in the wall. This alters the vessel’s normal structure and functioning. The vessels eventually get blocked and leak fluid. When they cannot deliver an adequate amount of blood supply to the eye, the eye can generate abnormal new blood vessels. Early diabetic retinopathy usually has no symptoms. However, worsening diabetic retinopathy can lead to visual loss and blindness. It's important to catch symptoms as early as possible. Thomas Eye Group's eye doctors provide greater Atlanta diabetic retinopathy testing.
The stages of diabetic retinopathy are divided into two categories, nonproliferative retinopathy, and proliferative retinopathy.
This is the first and earliest stage of diabetic retinopathy. NPDR (non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy) occurs when the small blood vessels of the retina start to leak fluid or bleed. This activity will lead to the formation of deposits called exudates. Once these blood vessels start to leak, swelling within the central part of the retina can occur. When the leakage of these blood vessels causes swelling of the central vision, this is referred to as macular edema. When macular edema sets in, the blood vessels can become blocked. This stage of diabetic retinopathy is common when a person develops diabetes. Most diabetics have some grade of NPDR. It is imperative to maintain regular eye examinations with the retina specialists at Thomas Eye Group to monitor and treat NPDR.
When new vessels start to grow as a result of the existing vessels becoming blocked, this marks the beginning of the next stage of diabetic retinopathy; proliferative diabetic retinopathy. This level of diabetic retinopathy is the most severe and dangerous for diabetic patients. These new abnormal blood vessels can grow on the retina, optic nerve, iris or into the vitreous gel inside the eye, and tend to grow poorly and are very fragile. The damage that these blood vessels bring to the retina can be catastrophic and include hemorrhages on the retina, scar tissue build-up and possible retinal detachment. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy can be present without any visual symptoms.
*If proliferative diabetic retinopathy is left untreated, blindness can occur. The best alternative to fighting PDR is early detection so that you and your eye doctor can begin to control this development.
The doctors at Thomas Eye Group will detect diabetic retinopathy through regular eye exams with their diabetic patients. In the earliest stages of diabetes, eye exams once or twice a year may be acceptable. The doctors will be specifically looking for the leaking blood vessels that can lead to more advanced levels of this eye disease. A dilated eye exam will be performed by your eye doctor and retinal photographic equipment may be used.
If you are a diabetic patient you have most likely had some kind of discussion with your primary care doctor regarding diet. The nutrition of the food you eat becomes critical for maintaining proper blood sugar levels. Please refer to this list below for diabetic nutrition tips:
The doctors at Thomas Eye Group would like all diabetic patients to know that we care and hope that we can provide the best care for their eyes. Most people who are diagnosed with diabetes are not told of the dangers related to the eyes but instead are told about other problems like strokes, heart attacks and kidney disease. Our eye doctors want you to know that early detection can save your vision and we are here to help in any way possible. We hope that you have found our information on diabetic retinopathy useful. For diabetic eye examinations, please contact one of our multiple Atlanta area locations.
Our retina specialists are board-certified in ophthalmology and fellowship-trained as specialists in retina/vitreous medicine and surgery. Both have also been recognized throughout their careers, by colleagues and patients, for compassionate patient care and surgical skill.