About Diabetic Retinopathy

Risk of developing Diabetic Retinopathy increases with type of diabetes, level and length of uncontrolled blood sugar, smoking, elevated blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.

Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy:

  • Background (Non-Proliferative) Diabetic Retinopathy (Mild, Moderate, Severe)
    • Characterized by blood vessel weakening and early leakage, often requires no treatment
  • Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
    • Characterized by growth of new blood vessels. Requires treatment to stabilize
  • Macular Edema
    • Can occur at either stage. Requires treatment due to leakage/swelling near central vision

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy patients may not show symptoms or notice any changes in their vision.  As the condition worsens, patients may develop symptoms including:

  • Blurred or double vision
  • Seeing flashes, floaters or dark spots in their vision
  • Distortion, shadows, or problems with peripheral vision
  • Problems with night vision

In advanced stages, Diabetic Retinopathy can lead to irreversible blindness.

Diagnosing Diabetic Retinopathy

Along with having regular dilated eye examinations, Harper’s Point Eye Associates has the latest technology, including angio OCT imaging and Fundus autofluorescence photography, to detect the earliest changes in Diabetic Retinopathy.

Having this information allows our doctors to recognize and monitor the earliest stages of the disease minimizing the potential for vision loss through early treatment when necessary.

Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy

Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy is typically indicated when leaky blood vessels reach a patient’s central vision and cause swelling (macular edema) or when the lack of blood flow and oxygen trigger the growth of new blood vessels within the retina (Proliferative Stage).  Studies confirm patients at these stages with these findings are at higher risk of permanent vision loss and benefit from treatment. Treatment options may include one or more of the following:

  • Focal or scattered laser treatment – to reduce swelling or restrict the growth of new blood vessels
  • Intravitreal Injections – to eliminate leaky blood vessels and reduce swelling
  • Vitrectomy – procedure to remove gel (vitreous) within the eye that is clouded with blood

Because diabetes is a lifelong condition, future retinal damage and vision loss is possible. Even after treatment for diabetic retinopathy, you’ll need regular eye examinations. Additional visits and testing throughout the year are often necessary to monitor the progress of your condition.

Preventing Diabetic Eye Disease and Diabetic Retinopathy

Reducing the risk of developing diabetic eye disease and diabetic retinopathy include the following:

  • Monitoring changes in vision and regular eye examinations
  • Keeping blood-glucose and A1C levels low
  • Monitoring and managing blood pressure
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Participating in a regular exercise routine
  • Monitoring and managing cholesterol levels
  • Quit smoking

Harper’s Point Eye Associates and Diabetic Eye Care

Patients with diabetes at Harper’s Point Eye Associates receive a “diabetic eye exam” at least one time per year. Those with increased complications associated with diabetes are seen more often. Using retinal exam with pupil dilation, fundus photography and our newest technology, Angio OCT, we can observe the earliest changes.

Angio OCT is a new technology that, without the use of dyes of injections, helps our doctors visualize the first signs of diabetic retinopathy. Having this important information can help us seek the necessary means to arrest the progression of this sight threatening disease.

With each diabetic eye examination, our doctors will send reports, including Angio OCT, to your family doctor and endocrinologist. Most testing associated with diabetes will be billed to your Medicare or medical insurance.

Most of these serious complications can be prevented with aggressive and consistent management of diabetes.

Questions? Call 513-530-0440.