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If you have diabetes and have not seen an ophthalmologist the past year, you should have an eye exam.

You need a healthy retina to have good vision. Diabetic Retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that might eventually lead to blindness.  It occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels in the retina (light sensitive tissue located in the back of the eye).

If you have Diabetic Retinopathy, you won't notice any changes in your vision at first.  But over time, Diabetic Retinopathy can get worse and cause vision loss.  Diabetic Retinopathy usually affects both eyes.

CAUSES

Diabetic Retinopathy is caused by damage to blood vessels of the retina, the lining of the eye is very sensitive to light.  There are two types:  non-proliferative and proliferative.

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy:  Early stage of the disease.  Blood veseels in the eye start to leak fluid into the retina, which leads to blurred vision.

Proliferative retinopathy:  Most advanced form of the disease.  New blood vessels begin to grow inside the eye.  These vessels are fragile and can bleed (hemorrhage), which can cause vision loss and scarring of the retina.

Diabetic Retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the working-age people.  People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at risk for this condition.

Having severe diabetes for a long period of time increases the chance of developing retinopathy.  It is also likely that retinopathy occurs earlier and more severely if diabetes is poorly controlled.  The majority who has had diabetes for over 30 years will show signs of diabetic retinopathy.

 

Symptoms

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:

Blindness

Blurred vision

Floaters

Shadows

Many poeple with diabetic retinopathy have no symptoms before major bleeding occurs in the eye.  This is why everyone with diabetes should have regular eye exams

Treatment

The treatment will not reverse the damage that has already occurred, but it prevents the disease from worsening.  The doctor will prescribe drugs that prevent abnormal proliferation of blood vessels in patients with proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

Laser surgery or photocoagulation can be used to prevent blood vessels from bleeding or to eliminate abnormal fragile vessels

A surgical procedure called Vitrectomy is done when there is bleeding (hemorrhage) in the eye.  This procedure is also done to repair a detached retina.

Prevention

Strict control of blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol is very important to prevent diabetic retinopathy.  People with diabetes should begin having eye examinations as follows:

Children over 10 years of age who have had diabetes for 3 to 5 year o more.

Adults with type 2 diabetes, soon after diagnosis

Adolescents and adults with type 1 diabetes, withing 5 years after diagnosis.

Patients should have a yearly eye exam, after their first examination if you start a new exercise program or are planning to become pregnant, have your eyes examinied.  You should avoid high impact or resistance exercise, which can strain weakened blood vessels and eyes.

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