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Understanding Diabetic Retinopathy

Information on the Common Eye Condition: Diabetic Retinopathy
Image Diagram of Diabetic Retinopathy

What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy occurs in people suffering from diabetes. When this eye condition exists, the disease (diabetes) causes progressive damage to the retina at the back of the eye. While other serious conditions stem from diabetes, this particular one can lead to loss of sight in patients.

How are these two conditions related? Diabetes affects the body’s ability to deal with sugar, whether it’s using the sugar or storing it for use later. This inability to properly deal with sugar in the body leads to other health problems, including diabetic retinopathy. When there is a surplus of unnecessary sugar in the blood, for instance, there is a greater risk of damage being done throughout the body’s systems. The eyes are no exception.

Given enough time, diabetes can eventually begin to affect the retina, interfering with the circulatory system of this light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye.

Symptoms and Causes of Diabetic Retinopathy

This condition results when there is an excess of damage to the blood vessels that feed the retina itself. The tiny vessels leak fluids, including blood, and this leakage causes the surrounding tissue to swell and interfere with vision, producing a clouding effect.

With the prolonged state of diabetes in a patient, the likelihood that diabetic retinopathy will develop increases steadily. If the condition is not dealt with once it has been diagnosed, then blindness may be the end result.

The principal symptoms of diabetic retinopathy may include the appearance of floaters or spots in one’s field of vision, blurriness, trouble with night vision, or seeing a dark spot at the center of vision.

Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy

There are two distinct forms of the disease: Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) represents the early version, and proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) represents the later, more advanced version. With NPDR, symptoms may be barely noticed, as blood vessels have only begun to be weakened.

Treatment for diabetic retinopathy, of course, depends first on the stage of the disease present in the patient. Early NPDR, for example, may not require more treatment besides regular monitoring.

In advanced cases, laser treatment (also called photocoagulation) may be employed in order to cut the blood and fluid off from leaking into the retina. In still more advanced cases, with blood vessel growth widespread, a doctor may employ a scattering of laser burns over the area of the retina, causing abnormalities to ultimately disappear.

With regular eye examinations from a trained optometrist, symptoms are much more likely to be properly diagnosed early on.


[Diagram Via: stlukeseye]

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