Not sure what diabetic retinopathy is and how it can affect your vision? In our article this week, our Calgary eye doctor breaks down the disease and provides tips on how you can prevent it.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication that arises from having diabetes which affects the eyes and vision of those inflicted with it. It occurs when there is damage to the blood vessels and light-sensitive tissue in the retina, which is located in the back of the eye. Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:
- Blurry vision
- Varied vision
- Diminished colour vision
- Empty or dark areas in your vision
- Loss of vision
The disease is usually present in both eyes of those who have it. At the beginning, those with diabetic retinopathy may not experience any symptoms at all. For this reason, it's important to regularly get your eyes examined, especially if you suffer from diabetes.
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What causes diabetic retinopathy?
Anyone who has type 1 or type 2 diabetes is susceptible to developing this disease. Their chances of contracting this eye condition rise the longer they have diabetes and the more their blood sugar is left unchecked or uncontrolled. As time goes on, having too much sugar in your blood can result in the tiny blood vessels that supply the retina with blood becoming blocked. Because of this, your eye will attempt to grow new blood vessels. However, these new blood vessels become improperly developed and are prone to leaking.
When it comes to diabetic retinopathy, there are two different types:
Early diabetic retinopathy — The most common form of diabetic retinopathy, this early form of the disease sees the production of new blood vessels halt their growth. Once this happens, the walls of the blood vessels within your retina become weaker which can sometimes lead to fluid and blood leaking into the retina. As time goes on and more blood vessels become blocked, the disease transitions from mild to severe.
Advanced diabetic retinopathy — The progression of diabetic retinopathy from mild to severe results in the advanced form of this eye disease. At this stage, the previously damaged blood vessels completely constrict causing the eye to grow new blood vessels which are improperly formed. This sometimes leads to blood and other fluid leaking into the vitreous of the eye. Over time, the formation of scar tissue (which is brought upon by the growth of the new blood vessels) can lead to your retina detaching itself from the back of your eye. If the new improperly formed blood vessels cause the regular flow of fluid in and out of the eye to be disrupted, this could lead to a buildup of pressure in your eye and result in glaucoma.
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How to prevent diabetic retinopathy
While diabetic retinopathy cannot always be prevented, there are a few things people with diabetes can do to help mitigate the severity of the disease or prevent it from causing vision loss if they are diagnosed with it. This includes:
- Regular eye exams
- Early diagnosis and treatment
- Strong control and management over their blood sugar and blood pressure
For those people who have diabetes and would like to prevent diabetic retinopathy from developing, it's important to do the following:
- Make sure you manage your diabetes properly by getting enough exercise
- Consistently keep an eye on your blood sugar levels
- Make sure your cholesterol and blood pressure are kept under control
- Quit smoking or using tobacco if you currently do
- Keep an eye out for any changes to your vision and see an optometrist as soon as you experience any
It's important to remember that just because you have diabetes it doesn't mean you'll develop diabetic retinopathy. By managing your diabetes properly and being proactive, you can help safeguard yourself from developing this eye condition or other ones in the future.
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