Though it starts as a mild disease, Diabetic Retinopathy can cause severe visual impairment and in some cases, blindness. As the name suggests, this disorder strikes diabetic patients, especially those with high sugar levels. As the symptoms are not immediately evident, the disease can often go unnoticed and later diagnosis may make the problem more severe. Since forewarned is forearmed, here is all you need to know about Diabetic Retinopathy.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) affects the light-sensitive tissue blood vessels in the retina that line the back of the eye. It can cause the leaking of the blood vessels in the eye and when the fluid gets accumulated in macula–the part of the retina that controls the most detailed vision abilities–blurred vision can be caused.
How is it caused?
Diabetic Retinopathy is caused mainly due to high sugar levels in the blood that damage the network of tiny blood vessels that supply blood to the retina of the eye. The severity of the effect of the sugar on the retina determines the effects of DR.
What happens in Diabetic Retinopathy?
During the initial stages, the blood vessels in the retina become weak and small bulges called microaneurysms are developed. These may burst and cause tiny blood haemorrhages on the retina, as per Sankara Eye Hospital.
Abnormal retinal blood vessels bleeding causes the appearance of wavy vision and colour changes. When blood vessels leak into the centre of the eye, it is identified as Proliferative Retinopathy. Blurry vision is one of the signs along with spots or floaters, or having trouble with night vision.
How likely is a diabetic patient to get DR?
Whether a person will conceive the disorder depends on the duration of their illness. If they have had diabetes for more than ten years, it is likely that 60 per cent of patients will develop these complications, says Dr S K Wangnoo, diabetologist, Apollo Hospitals.
What are the conditions conducive to DR?
Patients whose sugar level is not controlled are likely to develop DR. Diabetes starts affecting the eye when the HbA1C level (the glucose level in the blood) of the person is higher than seven.
What precautions can be taken?
Dr S K Wangnoo shares some pointers that one can keep in mind to keep DR at bay.
* Keep the HbA1C level less than 7.
* Keep ‘bad’ cholesterol or LDL less than 90.
* Keep the blood pressure less than 140/80.
* Exercise regularly and get the eyes checked every year.
How is it diagnosed?
In the early stages, DR does not cause any noticeable symptoms. Therefore, it tends to be diagnosed as a result of a diabetic eye screening test. This includes a comprehensive eye exam including a slit lamp examination, a dilated retinal check, and the measure of intraocular pressure. Thereafter, additional tests like a Fundus Fluorescein Angiography (FFA), Ultrasound B-Scan or an Optical Coherence Tomography to study the structure of the eye may be done.
What is the treatment for this?
Laser treatment can be performed that focuses on retinal thickening and stopping the bleeding. The Surgical treatment is done for the advanced stages of DR. A procedure called vitrectomy is performed to correct this. In selected conditions, intravitreal injections are also given.