When blood vessels in the retina change, it can lead to diabetic retinopathy. Two things can happen. The blood vessels might swell and fluid starts leaking, or the eyes shut off completely. In the other condition, abnormal blood vessels grow in the retina.
It can happen to anyone who has type 1 and type 2 diabetes. If you suffer from long-term diabetes and the blood sugar levels are not under control, the chances of developing diabetic retinopathy are high. It might cause no or mild symptoms however can lead to blindness.
As said earlier, the symptoms might not show. However, as the condition progresses, one might experience:
- Blurred vision
- Loss of vision
- Dark area in the vision
- Floating spots in the vision
- Difficulty in color recognition
Diabetic retinopathy generally develops in both eyes. It can be classified as early or advanced, depending on the signs and symptoms.
Early Diabetic Retinopathy
It is also known as non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy as the blood vessels do not grow at this point. One can classify it as mild, moderate or severe. In this condition, blood vessels in the retina weaken. Tiny bulges form around the blood vessels leading to blood leakage into the retina. With the progress in condition, smaller vessels might close and dilation of larger vessels occurs. The nerve fibers and the macula also swell thus, leading to macular edema.
Advanced Diabetic Retinopathy
It is proliferative diabetic retinopathy and is more severe, as in this condition, new but abnormal blood vessels begin to grow in the retina. A jelly-like substance begins to fill the center of the eye, causing the retina to detach from the back of the eye. It can lead to glaucoma.
Causes of Diabetic Retinopathy
Tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina can be damaged due to high blood sugar levels. This leads to blockage of the blood vessels. As more and more vessels are blocked, the blood supply to the retina is cutoff eventually causing partial or complete vision loss. The eye attempts to grow blood vessels however, they do not develop fully leading to leakage.
What are the Risk Factors?
We have discussed earlier that diabetic retinopathy can happen to anyone who suffers from diabetes. However, the following factors increase the risk further:
- Diabetes duration: the longer the duration, the greater your risk of diabetic retinopathy
- High blood sugar levels
- Elevated blood pressure levels
- High cholesterol
- Excessive tobacco usage
Laser treatment until now was suggested when there was a significant vision loss. Thanks to the new procedure that brings a new ray of hope for the diabetic patients facing blindness. The new procedure makes use of low-heat beams of energy. The surrounded tissues thus remain unharmed during the procedure. The laser beam seals the rupture that develops in the blood vessels due to high blood sugar levels. This prevents them from turning into lesions and eventually lowers vision problems.