Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease. It’s also a leading cause of blindness in American adults. Routine diabetic eye exams are essential to catch eye disease in its earliest stage. When Dr. Jeevan Mathura and Dr. Lindsay Smithen identify early diabetic eye disease, they can start treatment to help prevent vision loss. If you have diabetes, call them at Retina & Macular Disease Specialists in Arlington, Virginia, or book an appointment online for a comprehensive eye exam.
Diabetic eye disease refers to several eye conditions that develop in people with diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes causes two primary eye diseases, diabetic retinopathy, and diabetic macular edema.
If you have diabetes, you also have a higher risk of developing cataract and glaucoma. Adults with diabetes are 2-5 times more likely to develop cataract and have nearly double the risk of glaucoma.
Diabetic retinopathy develops as high blood sugar damages small blood vessels in your retina. This condition may progress through stages:
Small blood vessels damaged by high blood sugar swell and leak fluid. Over time, fluid leaks into the macula, which is the area on your retina responsible for central vision and visual acuity, which lets you see sharp details.
The ongoing buildup of fluid ultimately causes diabetic macular edema (DME), creating pressure that damages this delicate structure. DME is the most common cause of vision loss in people with diabetic retinopathy.
Sometimes the nonproliferative stage may progress to proliferative retinopathy, which occurs when new blood vessels grow in the retina. These abnormal vessels leak blood, which affects vision and causes scar tissue. The scar tissue can distort the retina and cause retinal detachment.
Routine diabetic eye exams are essential because your doctor at Retina & Macular Disease Specialists can see changes in blood vessels long before you have symptoms. When diagnosed early, treatment may prevent progression to vision loss.
Symptoms that develop as diabetic retinopathy progresses include:
Your doctor at Retina & Macular Disease Specialists will recommend one of several possible treatments:
Laser surgery helps to seal and shrink abnormal blood vessels. It reduces swelling of the retina and may prevent the vessels from growing again.
This procedure reduces pressure by removing vitreous gel and blood from leaking vessels. Scar tissue may also be removed from the retina during vitrectomy.
Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) medications can be injected into your eye. They reduce swelling in the macula, slow vision loss, and may improve vision. Steroid injections are another option for treating swelling.