Diabetic retinopathy FAQ’s
Damage to your retina through diabetes is called “diabetic retinopathy”. It is important to remember that diabetic retinopathy is a process. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. The end point of diabetic retinopathy in total loss of vision. Fortunately, treatment in the early and mid-stages can prevent the condition from worsening.
What causes diabetic retinopathy?
Risk factors for developing diabetic retinopathy include poorly controlled diabetes or fluctuating blood sugar levels, hypertension, smoking, high cholesterol, anaemia, low folic acid levels, kidney disease, and being diabetic for ten years or more (long-term diabetes). Controlled diabetes can also lead to diabetic retinopathy.
If one eye is affected by diabetic retinopathy, will the other be automatically affected?
Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes. Symptoms may appear in one eye only, but both eyes are usually affected, though not necessarily equally.
What is Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)?
Diabetic macular edema, or DME, is a common complication of an eye condition known as Diabetic Retinopathy, where high levels of blood sugar damage and weaken the tiny blood vessels of the retina causing them to leak blood and other fluids in the back of the eye. The accumulation of fluid in the retina can lead to swelling of the surrounding tissue, including the macula, which is the central part of the retina responsible for sharp vision. This swelling is known as Diabetic Macular Edema, and is the leading cause of vision loss in people with diabetic retinopathy.
Can vision loss as a result of diabetic retinopathy be prevented?
Vision problems associated with diabetic retinopathy can be prevented through the proper management of diabetes and regulating blood sugar levels. This includes taking your diabetes medications regularly on time, following the prescribed diet, daily/weekly blood sugar testing, exercising regularly and maintaining normal body weight, controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol, periodic eye exams, and by avoiding alcohol and smoking.
What is hypertensive retinopathy?
Hypertensive retinopathy is retinal vascular (blood vessel) damage caused by hypertension. The tiny, delicate blood vessels which supply blood to the eyes can be damaged by high blood pressure, over time. This damage can restrict proper blood flow in the retina, limit the retina’s function and put pressure on the optic nerve, which can lead to blurred vision or complete loss of vision. If you have both diabetes and high blood pressure, you’re at an even greater risk for developing this condition.
Can High BP cause blurred vision?
Other than affecting vital organs such as the heart, brain and kidneys, untreated high blood pressure can also affect your eyesight and lead to eye diseases. Persistent, untreated high blood pressure can damage the vessels supplying blood to your retina, and cause bleeding in the eye, blurred vision or complete loss of sight. A stroke caused by high BP can also cause blurry vision.
How often should you get your eyes tested if you have High BP?
People with high BP need to monitor their BP and also get their eyes screened regularly by an ophthalmologist or retina specialist. The ophthalmologist will examine the retina (back of the eye) to check for any damage caused by high blood pressure to the small blood vessels (capillaries) which supply blood to the eye. The frequency of visits will be determined by the doctor based on the condition of the patient’s eyes and severity of disease.
What are the treatment options for diabetic retinopathy?
Mild cases of diabetic retinopathy can be treated with diet modifications and careful management of blood glucose levels. Advanced cases of diabetic retinopathy may require laser treatment to prevent bleeding and to improve blurred vision or a “vitrectomy”, which is a surgery to remove the jelly-like substance that fills the inside of the eye. Medications such as “blood vessel growth inhibitor” or steroids may be needed to treat swelling of the retina or to prevent the growth of abnormal blood vessels.