What is Diabetic Retinopathy and How is it Caused?
November is National Diabetes Month, and Dr. Steven Nielsen and his team at The Nielsen Eye Center are doing their part to spread awareness about a common eye disease that afflicts many people who have diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is the number one cause of blindness in Americans of working age, and diabetes-related eye disease has been estimated to affect more than 28 percent of diabetics who are aged 40 and older. While the condition usually does not develop until approximately 10 years after the onset of diabetes, it is imperative to have regular dilated eye exams to check for signs of diabetic retinopathy before symptoms progress to debilitating stages. There is no cure for diabetic retinopathy; however, advanced treatment options available here at our practice can dramatically slow its progression and potentially save your vision.
There are two major forms of diabetic retinopathy: proliferative and non-proliferative. Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy occurs when high levels of blood sugar affect retinal blood vessels. This can lead to fluid or blood leakage, causing deposits and swelling to form in the retina. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy – the most serious type – occurs in later stages of the condition and is characterized by new growth of blood vessels on the retina’s surface. Once these vessels break, they can bleed into the center of the eye and cause pronounced vision impairment and ultimately blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy can afflict individuals who have either type-1 or type-2 diabetes. Those who have suffered from diabetes for long periods of time are more susceptible; in fact, nearly everyone who has had diabetes for 30 years or more exhibit signs of diabetic retinopathy. The good news is: there are state-of-the-art treatment options, including laser procedures, that can help control diabetic retinopathy and minimize risks to your vision. The important thing to remember is that annual eye exams are absolutely essential to catch the disease in its earliest stages and reduce the potential for vision impairment.
In addition to diabetic retinopathy, diabetes has been linked to the development of cataracts and glaucoma. If you are experiencing blurriness, floaters, missing spots, or any other symptoms that are affecting your vision, an eye exam should be scheduled as quickly as possible.
For more information, please visit our diabetic retinopathy page, or contact The Nielsen Eye Center with any questions you may have. We will also be happy to help you schedule a consultation and a comprehensive eye exam here at our practice.