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Know how Diabetic Retinopathy can lead to blindness

By admin | Jun 07, 2017

Diabetic Retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in American adults. Diabetic retinopathy occurs in patients who have had diabetes for a prolonged period of time and in those who have increased blood sugar levels. If diabetes is not controlled, it can damage small blood vessels in the retina. This condition usually affects both eyes. Diabetic retinopathy is classified into two types:

Non-Proliferative (NPDR) is the early stages of diabetic retinopathy where symptoms may be mild or nonexistent. With NPDR blood vessels in the retina become damaged. The blood vessels may leak fluid into the retina which causes swelling of the macula.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PRD) is the more advanced stage of this condition. During this stage, the retina has been deprived of circulation and nutrients resulting in the growth of new, fragile blood vessels. When abnormal new blood vessels grow, fluid may leak into the retina. This causes swelling in the macula resulting in cloudy or blurred vision. More severe complications of PRD include vitreous hemorrhage, retinal detachment, and glaucoma.  If left untreated PRD can result in severe vision loss and blindness.

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy may include seeing spots, floaters, blurred vision, having a dark or an empty spot in vision and difficulty seeing well at night. Diabetes can hasten the onset of cataracts, causing blurred vision.  In many cases, early onset diabetic retinopathy will have no visual symptoms. It is important to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam once a year. Early detection can decrease your chances of developing significant vision loss.

Depending on the severity, treatment for diabetic retinopathy may vary. Focal grid/ macular laser surgery will seal off leaking blood vessels. Sealing off leaking blood vessels will also reduce swelling in the macula. Anti VEGF drugs are used to block the effects of the protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) which can stimulate the fragile new blood vessels to grow. Corticosteroids may also be beneficial and used in combination with anti VEGF or laser surgery. Corticosteroids can be implanted or injected into the eye. The implanted corticosteroid works by releasing a sustained dose of corticosteroids to suppress macular edema.

Your eye care specialist will conduct a comprehensive dilated eye exam. During the exam, your eye care specialist will test your vision and look for signs such as swelling, abnormal blood vessels, fluid or fatty deposits in the retina, retinal detachment or abnormalities in the optic nerve. Here at Retina Consultants of Boston we work closely with our diabetic patients to closely monitor their vision. We offer our patients customized treatment plans to best suit our patient’s needs. We are currently accepting new patients, please call and make an appointment today!

In the interest of maintaining further transparency and providing a wide breadth of information to our patients and providers, this blog will serve as an educational and informative resource on interesting happenings within Retina Consultants of Boston and in the greater field of Ophthalmology.

Here at Retina Consultants of Boston, Dr. John J. Weiter and Dr. Namrata Nandakumar are on the forefront of diagnostic techniques, treatment and micro-surgical techniques for macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachments, macular holes, and a number of other issues affecting the vitreous and retina. Check back here frequently for news and updates on our practice and all things retina!