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Diabetic Retinopathy

What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?

It is important to knowthat you can have diabetic retinopathy and experience no symptoms from the disease. Early detection is critical to preserving your vision if you have the disease. If you have diabetes it is critical to have regular eye examinations so the condition can be detected and treated early. Much can be done toslow the progression of the disease and to preserve your vision if the condition is detected and treatment begins in the early stages.

If you have diabetes it is recommended that you have regular eye examinations so the diabetic retinopathy can be detected early and treatment can begin.

Typical Symptoms you may experience with diabetic retinopathy:

  • Spots, dots or cobweb-like dark strings floating in your vision (called floaters)
  • Blurred vision
  • Vision that changes periodically from blurry to clear
  • Blank or dark areas in your field of vision
  • Poor night vision
  • Colors appear washed out or different
  • Vision loss
  • Diabetic retinopathy symptoms usually affect both eyes

If you have diabetes and even if you are not experiencing vision problems but have not been evaluated for diabetic retinopathy you should see an eye care professional immediately. A physician at the Eye Centers of Florida can provide a comprehensive evaluation of your condition and provide high quality care and treatment that can slow the progression and reverse your diabetic retinopathy.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetes related eye disease. People with diabetes commonly experience changes in the blood vessels in the retina. They can swell and leak fluid and blood, and in some cases vessels close off completely. In other patients abnormal new blood vessels begin to grow on the surface of the retina causing hemorrhage and traction detaching the retina. These conditions lead to a progressive loss of vision.

The retina is a thin layer of light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. Light rays are focused onto the retina, where they are transmitted to the brain and interpreted as the images you see. At the center of the retina there is a small area known as the macula. The macula is responsible for pinpoint vision. This is the area that allows us to have sharp and clear vision on fine objects or faces. The surrounding area is called the peripheral retina and this is where we get our side or peripheral vision.

Diabetic retinopathy interferes with the normal function of the retina causinga decline in vision for the patient. It is important to know that the condition is progressive. Without early treatment,slowing theeffects of the condition may not be possible. Loss of both fine and peripheral vision and even blindness can occur.

There is no cure for diabetic retinopathy but the eye care professionals at The Eye Centers of Florida can slow and stop the progression of the disease in most cases. A lot depends on early detection and treatment.

What causes Diabetic Retinopathy?

Elevated blood sugar levels, high blood pressure and other unhealthy lifestyle factors all contribute to the development of diabetic retinopathy. Managing blood sugar, following doctor’s orders and seeing your eye care professional regularly can help offset the impact of diabetic retinopathy on your life.

When a person has elevated blood sugar levels for extended periods of time it damages capillaries (tiny blood vessels) that bring blood to the retina. Over time the damage can cause the vessels to leak fluids and fats, resulting in swelling that can cause the vessels to close. These changes in blood vessels are the primary source of the symptoms and vision loss from diabetic retinopathy. Professional treatment and early intervention can mitigate the effects of these conditions.

Can Diabetic Retinopathy be prevented?

There are a number of medical steps, diet and behavioral changes that can be implemented to minimize the impact and slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy. These steps can reduce the chance of vision loss and complications resulting from the disease. They are:

  • Most Important – Keep blood sugar levels within target range
  • Eat a healthful diet
  • Monitor your blood sugar levels frequently
  • Take insulin and/or medicines as prescribed by your doctor
  • Keep your blood pressure within target range
  • Have your eyes checked regularly and follow our eye doctor’s instructions
  • Follow a healthy exercise program to assist in keeping your blood sugar level in line

Following these guidelines can help you prevent or slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

Also, early detection, consistent care and treatment from your eye care professional can help you manage the disease and avoid vision loss. Have your eyes examined by an eye specialist regularly if you have diabetes.

How will Diabetic Retinopathy impact my life?

As diabetic eye problems are left untreated, proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) can develop. Blocked blood vessels from an inadequate blood supply can lead to the growth of new abnormal blood vessels on the retina (called neovascularization) which can damage the retina by causing wrinkling or retinal detachment. Neovascularization can even lead to glaucoma, damage to the optic nerve that carries images from your eye to your brain.

Diabetes can cause vision in both eyes to change, even if you do not have retinopathy. Rapid changes in your blood sugar alter the shape of your eye’s lens, and the image on the retina will become out of focus. After your blood sugar stabilizes, the image will be back in focus.

There is a lot you and your doctor can do to offset the effects and slow the progression of the disease. If you are diabetic you understand that taking your insulin, other medications, watching blood sugar levels and eating right are critical in managing your diabetes. Adding regular visits to your eye care professional should be added to your list.

The most important thing someone with diabetic retinopathy can do is make a commitment to caring for your eyes and following your eye doctor’s orders.

Get regular eye exams so diabetic retinopathy can be detected and treatment to slow the progression of the condition can begin as soon as possible. Your treatment options will vary depending on your specific case and the stage of your condition.

Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment Begins with an Evaluation.

If you feel you may have diabetic retinopathy you can visit our diabetic retinopathy symptoms page (link to symptoms page) to see if you are experiencing the common symptoms and issues related to the problem. Although most of the time diabetic retinopathy does not cause any symptoms until it reaches more advanced stages.

Treatment of diabetic retinopathy can take many forms but early intervention and treatment of the disease is critical to preserving your vision. The first step in getting help is to be evaluated by our eye care professional by scheduling an appointment.

You can expect a thorough examination of your eyes and an assessment of your general health and diabetes to determine the stage of your disease and the appropriate treatment. Being a medical issue, the exam and treatments are generally covered by insurance. We can help you make this determination if you need assistance.

How is Diabetic Retinopathy treated?

The treatment of diabetic retinopathy can vary based on the stage of the condition at the time of diagnosis. However, early intervention can slow and prevent the progression of vision loss.

In simple terms, diabetic retinopathy is caused by changes in the blood vessels in the back of the eye as a result of the patient’s diabetes. The light sensing retina that sends impulses to the optic nerve is fused to the back of the eye. Changes in the blood vessels in this area caused by the diabetes can diminish the retina’s ability to sense light properly and cause a decline or loss of vision.

The various treatments can be administered which are primarily centered on preserving the connection between the retina and the back of the eye. Since we cannot cure the disease our focus is on slowing and preventing the progression of vision loss.

The following is a general list of therapies that are typically recommended for diabetic retinopathy. Our goal is to provide the very best medical attention that will help you retain the best possible vision for the longest period of time. We value our patient relationships and work hard to give you the best possible care and results.

Medication injections

You may be given an anti-VEGF medication that works by blocking a substance known as vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, which contributes to abnormal blood vessel growth in the eye, which can affect your vision. An anti-VEGF drug can help reduce the growth of these abnormal blood vessels.

Medication injections are used to treat the abnormal growth of blood vessels in the back of the eye that accompany diabetes. The growth and changes in these blood vessels can create a separation between the retina and the eyeball that causes the distortion and eventual loss of vision in diabetic patients.

Medication injections can be very effective in slowing the progression of your diabetic retinopathy and the loss of vision.

Steroid and anti-vascular growth medication is injected painlessly into the eye. Both medications are designed to stabilize the blood vessels in the back of the eye, reducing conditions that can lead to a separation for the retina from the eye, disrupting vision.

The frequency of the injections and the medication used is dependent on the individual patient’s case and stage of the disease.

Laser Therapy

In the case of diabetic retinopathy, the laser can be used to stabilize the tiny blood vessels that are undermining the connection between the retina and the eyeball that are causing a decline in vision. The procedure will arrest the progression of the disease for a time but it is not a cure.

Focal/Grid argon laser therapy

This is an outpatient procedure used to treat the abnormal dilates (leaking microaneurysms) in the macula (central area of the retina). This prevents swelling of the macula and helps the leaked fluid to be reabsorbed, resulting in vision improvement.

Panretinal laser therapy

Also an outpatient procedure, this process is used to decrease retinal ischemia (blocked blood vessels) and therefore reduce or eliminate retinal neovascularization (the development of tiny, abnormal, leaky blood vessels), which can lead to severe visual loss.

Laser therapy is commonly used for a variety of retinal issues. The laser is used to reattach a separated retina by creating scar tissue that heals the tear and helps the retina adhere to the back of the eye. This is generally successful in restoring vision in healthy patients who are not suffering from diabetes.

The laser treatments are done on an outpatient basis with minimal discomfort and trauma to the eye. The result will vary based on the individual case. The procedure can be repeated if the surgeon feels the patient will benefit. The time it takes to experience an improvement in vision varies and is dependent upon the stage of the diabetic retinopathy, the severity of the diabetes and the patient’s general health.

Vitrectomy surgery

Vitrectomy surgery is performed on an outpatient basis. Either a local or general anesthetic can be used for the patients comfort.

During vitrectomy surgery, an operating microscope and small surgical instruments are used to remove blood and scar tissue that accompany abnormal vessels in the eye. Removing the vitreous hemorrhage allows light rays to pass through the eye and focus on the retina again.

This procedure often prevents further vitreous hemorrhage by removing the abnormal vessels that caused the bleeding. Removal of the scar tissue helps the retina return to its normal location. Laser surgery may be performed during vitrectomy surgery.

Other procedures

The eye surgeon can offer other treatment options including medication and supplements that can be useful in treating diabetic retinopathy. The Eye Centers of Florida have world class surgeons and state of the art facilities ready to provide the best possible treatments and patient outcomes in your case.

When is the right time for Diabetic Retinopathy to be treated?

Early diagnosis and treatment are essential in managing diabetic retinopathy. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes we suggest starting regular eye examinations to assess your vision and the condition of your eyes. It is possible for a diabetic to have an advanced case of diabetic retinopathy but have no symptoms. It is much more difficult to treat the condition when it is diagnosed in the later stages.

If you have diabetes you can protect your vision by being proactive and getting regular eye examinations.

What can I expect from Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment?

You can expect:

  • To be treated by an experienced and highly trained eye surgeon
  • To be treated with respect and to have all treatments and procedures thoroughly explained to you by the doctor or staff member
  • A thorough and comprehensive examination and assessment of your case during each visit to the Eye Centers of Florida.
  • A comprehensive treatment plan that will give you the best possible vision and quality of life.

What’s next?

Get a Diabetic Retinopathy evaluation

If you suspect you may be suffering from diabetic retinopathy symptoms or would like to learn more about diabetic retinopathy causes and its different stages, book your diabetic retinopathy evaluation at Eye Centers of Florida.

The sooner diabetic retinopathy treatment is started the less damage will occur to your vision.

Why choose Eye Centers of Florida for your treatment?

At Eye Centers of Florida, we have a complement of highly qualified doctors are available provide world-class treatment for eye conditions. We are proud of our long history of service and on having built lifelong relationships with our patients.

Our state-of-the-art facilities are fully equipped to meet the needs of all our patients. To learn more about our team of experts and our facilities, contact Eye Centers of Florida today.

Please contact us today or Request an Appointment. Our centers are located across Southwest Florida, including Fort Myers and Naples.