In the long run, diabetes affects the blood circulation system of the retina. In the first phase of diabetic retinopathy the arteries in the retina become weak and they start leaking. This leads to the formation of small, dot-like hemorrhages. The leakage then leads to edema in the retina causing a decrease in the vision.
In the next phase of diabetic retinopathy, the circulation problems result the retina to become ischemic i.e. oxygen deprived. To maintain adequate oxygen levels within the retina the body develops new fragile vessels. This process is called neovascularization. These vessels are so delicate that they hemorrhage easily causing the spots, floaters and eventually decreased vision.
In the later phases, the abnormal vessel growth continues and the scar tissue may risk in other serious ophthalmologic problems like glaucoma and retinal detachment.
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
Depending on the stage of the disease the affect of diabetic retinopathy on vision varies widely. However the common symptoms are
Blurred vision depending on the blood sugar levels
Flashes and floaters
Sudden loss of vision
Diabetics who have had diabetes for more than 10 years should have routine examinations. This will help in early detection of eye problems for an early treatment. If a patient develops retinopathy the Endocrinologist refers him to vitreo retinal surgeons who are specialist in treating this disease.
Depending on the phase of the disease, Diabetic Retinopathy is treated in many ways focusing on specific problem that requires attention. The retinal surgeon will advise the patient to undergo several tests like retinal photography, ultra sound imaging of the eye and fluorescein angiography to map the progression of the disease and give appropriate treatment.
The vitreo retinal surgeons treat the problem of neovascularization with a laser surgery called pan retinal photocoagulation (PRP) that helps in arresting the progression of the disease. The laser in the PRPÂ destroys the oxygen deprived retinal tissue outside the patients central vision.
The PRP stops the continuous growth of fragile new vessels and it also seals the leaking vessels.
Another surgery called Vitrectomy is used to treat vitreous hemorrhage. Through this surgery the surgeon removes Vitreous and blood from the eye to replace it with clear salt solution. They may also have to cut the strands of the vitreous attached to the retina thus cutting down the risk of retinal detachment.
In the case of actual retinal detachment the surgeons have to surgically reattach the retina to the its original position.
The best way to prevent eye problems is to maintain blood sugar levels with proper balance diet and exercise. Apart from that routine eye examinations may help the doctor to predict the possibilities of eye complications.