Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that’s associated with long-standing diabetes. It’s a major cause of poor vision in the UK.
Retinopathy can occur with all types of diabetes. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina.
Classification of diabetic retinopathy:
Early diabetic retinopathy. Nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) is the most common type of diabetic retinopathy. It can be described as mild, moderate or severe. When you have NPDR, the walls of the blood vessels in your retina weaken
Advanced diabetic retinopathy. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is the most severe type of diabetic retinopathy. When you have PDR, abnormal blood vessels grow in the retina.
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. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy retina is necessary for good vision.
In the early stage of diabetic retinopathy, tiny blood vessels in the eye weaken and develop small bulges that may burst and leak into the retina. Later, new fragile blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. These blood vessels may break and bleed into the eye, clouding vision and causing scar tissue to form.
In later stages, the disease may lead to new blood vessel growth over the retina. The new blood vessels can cause scar tissue to develop, which can pull the retina away from the back of the eye. This is known as retinal detachment, and it can lead to blindness if untreated.
In addition, abnormal blood vessels can grow on the iris, which can lead to glaucoma. People with diabetes are 25 times more likely to lose vision than those who are not diabetic, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Diabetic retinopathy often has no early warning signs. Even macular edema, which may cause vision loss more rapidly, may not have any warning signs for some time. In general, however, a person with macular edema is likely to have blurred vision, making it hard to do things like read or drive. In some cases, the vision will get better or worse during the day.
There are two treatments for diabetic retinopathy. They are very effective in reducing vision loss from this disease. In fact, even people with advanced retinopathy have a 90 percent chance of keeping their vision when they get treatment before the retina is severely damaged. These treatments are:
A. Laser Surgery: Doctors will perform laser surgery to treat severe macular edema and proliferative retinopathy.
B. Macular Edema: Timely laser surgery can reduce vision loss from macular edema by half. But you may need to have laser surgery more than once to control the leaking fluid. During the surgery, your doctor will aim a high-energy beam of light directly onto the damaged blood vessels. This is called “focal laser treatment.”