Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes when the blood sugar goes up and causes the blood vessels of the retina to break and leak. The damage to the retinal blood vessels may appear as spots in the field of vision.
The blood vessels can get blocked which may cause a lack of oxygen, and this will make the retina swell. This is called the nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy. In the more advanced stages, the lack of oxygen will stimulate the growth of new blood vessels that are very friable and that easily break and bleed. This can cause additional hemorrhage that will decrease vision further. This is the proliferative diabetic retinopathy stage. Sometimes, scar tissue can form which can pull on the retina causing a detachment of the retina. Eventually, if left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness.
People with diabetes must have a regular eye check up. The key to not getting the complication of diabetes is still to maintain the proper blood sugar level. It is essential to have regular visits to their doctor, to maintain good diabetic management.
The treatment for diabetic retinopathy varies depending on the stage. For the nonproliferative stage, if the central portion of the retina or the macula is swollen, laser can be done to help reduce the swelling. In the proliferative stage, laser therapy can be done to prevent the growth of new vessels, and to stop the progress of the retinopathy. If bleeding has occurred in the gel of the eye called the vitreous, removal of the vitreous is done (vitrectomy). However, at this stage, the goal of treatment is not to cure the retinopathy, but to prevent further damage. Despite all these measures the disease can progress to blindness. Early detection and control of diabetes is important. If your vision loss has affected your quality of life, ask for a low vision specialist.
Vision rehabilitation can help people being treated with vision loss from diabetic retinopathy, by devices and solutions that enable them to do the activities they value in daily life.