Knowing the difference between proper and improper diabetic eye care for Atlanta residents is important because if you have diabetes, you are at risk of losing your vision to complication from improperly treated diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that affects the blood vessels throughout the body, particularly vessels in the kidney and eye. If sugar levels rise, damage to the retinal blood vessels may occur. This injury is known as Diabetic retinopathy and is the leading cause of blindness in adults. A majority of people who have diabetes will develop diabetic retinopathy, but with the available medical treatments, only a small percentage of people have serious vision problems. Therefore, it is very important for people who have diabetes to have regular comprehensive eye exams by on of our Milan Eye Center ophthalmologists.
The types of Diabetic retinopathy include nonproliferative and proliferative retinopathy. Nonproliferative retinopathy is the early stage where reading vision is not typically affected. If not detected it can advance and cause severe vision problems. Proliferative retinopathy is when the illness has advanced. In this stage new vessels grow, or proliferate, in the retina. These new vessels are the body’s attempt to overcome and replace the vessels which have been damaged by diabetes. These new vessels are not normal and they may bleed and cause your vision to become hazy. These new vessels can also damage the retina by forming scar tissue and by pulling the retina away from its proper location. Thankfully, any damage to the blood vessels in the eye can be slowed with treatment.
Macular edema describes the condition where retinal blood vessels can develop tiny leaks. When this occurs, blood and fluid seep from the retinal blood vessels, and fatty material deposits in the retina. This causes swelling of the retina and is called diabetic macular edema. Vision will become reduced or blurred.
Treatment for nonproliferative retinopathy is not necessary. The most important thing is to have regular eye exams to monitor any progression. Strict control of blood sugar and blood pressure levels can greatly reduce or prevent diabetic retinopathy.
For advanced prolferative retinopathy laser surgery is often helpful. To reduce macular edema, laser light is focused on the damaged retina to seal leaking retinal vessels. For abnormal blood vessel growth, the laser treatments are delivered over the peripheral retina. The small laser scars that result will reduce abnormal blood vessel growth and help bond the retina to the back of the eye, thus preventing retinal detachment. Laser surgery can greatly reduce the chance of severe visual impairment and should be considered early in the course of the disease to prevent serious vision loss rather than to try and treat after vision loss has already occurred.
Vitrectomy is the surgical removal of the vitreous gel which may help to improve vision if the retina has not become seriously damaged. This surgery is performed when there is bleeding, retinal detachment, or severe scar tissue has formed.