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Diabetes Management: What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a common diabetes complication that happens due to damage to the retina’s blood vessels in individuals with diabetes. This condition could develop in individuals with either type 1 or 2 diabetes as well as those with an extensive history of unregulated blood sugar levels.

Although you might experience mild vision issues at first, there’s a chance that you might lose your vision eventually if you fail to treat it. According to the National Health Services, in the UK, diabetes is the number one cause of preventable vision loss.

Causes of Diabetic Retinopathy

Essentially, high blood sugar levels over an extended period are the most common causes of diabetic retinopathy. Specifically, excess sugar will eventually damage blood vessels responsible for supplying blood to the retina.

The retina is a tissue layer in the eye’s back portion that changes images the eyes perceive into nerve signals readily understandable by your brain. When these get damaged, they’re also blocked, and in turn, cuts off blood supply to the retina.

Consequently, this could lead to the growth of weaker blood vessels that could then leak and build scar tissue that could result in vision loss. Individuals who have been battling diabetes for a long time have an increased risk of developing retinopathy.

In fact, the NHS states that almost everyone who’s had diabetes for longer than 30 years would display some symptoms of diabetic retinopathy. Having high blood pressure also makes an individual more susceptible to diabetic retinopathy.

Fortunately, depending on the retinopathy’s severity, managing yours could help in significantly slowing down its progression.

Common Warning Signs of Diabetic Retinopathy

nurse with stethoscope in a meeting

Take note that diabetic retinopathy symptoms usually don’t manifest until there’s already significant damage to your eye. That said, you can try to prevent further damage from occurring by ensuring that you control your blood sugar levels and get regular eye tests.

But when symptoms do manifest, they typically include the following:

  • Vision loss
  • Blurry vision
  • Trouble seeing in the dark or at night
  • Difficulty recognising colours
  • Seeing dark spots or floaters

Treatment Options for Diabetic Retinopathy

For individuals who have early-stage diabetic retinopathy, there’s really no treatment. But to prevent the progression of the disease and support or maximise vision through the use of vision aids for those visually impaired persons. You must also make sure that you manage your diabetes properly.

If you have advanced diabetic retinopathy, your treatment options would be dependent on its severity and specific type of retinopathy. These include medications injected into the eyes, laser treatment, and photocoagulation surgery.

This surgical procedure utilises laser therapy for stopping or controlling leakage through burning blood vessels and sealing them.

Diabetic retinopathy is a very serious diabetes complication that could result in reduced vision or complete vision loss if not treated early and adequately. If you have diabetes and have an increased risk of developing retinopathy, you must get eye exams regularly.

Make sure that you have your diabetes under control. Additionally, keep track of any changes in your vision and potential warning signs of retinopathy and inform your doctor about them right away.