Diabetic Retinopathy may occur in patients with diabetes. Blood sugar levels in diabetics may damage the walls of the blood vessels in the retina. This damage may affect the integrity of the vessels, causing the vessels to leak fluid or blood. The vessels may also close altogether, or collapse. This disruption of normal blood flow in the eye may cause distortion of the central and peripheral vision.
There are two types of diabetic retinopathy:
- Nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) is the earlier stage of the disorder. Symptoms may be non-existent or mild. The damaged vessels described above may cause small exudates and microaneurysms which lead to macular swelling/edema. The vessels may also close causing areas of the retina to receive less blood supply leading to ischemia. Both of these symptoms will result in central vision loss.
- Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is the more advanced form of diabetic retinopathy. The damage of the vessel walls can progress throughout the peripheral retina causing larger areas of oxygen depletion. When the vessels close, the retina attempts to make new vessels in order to supply oxygen to the ischemic retina. These vessels are weaker and the walls break down easier causing areas of hemorrhage and fibrotic tissue between the retina and vitreous. If left untreated, central and peripheral vision loss can occur due to vitreous hemorrhage, retinal tears, and retinal detachment.
What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?
In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, a person may not notice any visual changes. A person may not even realize he or she is diabetic. However, areas of ischemia (lack of blood supply) may already be progressing without notice. Microaneurysms causing areas of edema or fluid and hard exudates may be in their beginning stages. These hidden symptoms will not get better on their own and will only worsen, negatively affecting vision over time if left untreated. This is one of the most important reasons, everyone, especially those who are diabetic or with a family history of diabetes should have an annual, comprehensive, dilated eye exam by an ophthalmologist.
PROLIFERATIVE DIABETIC RETINOPATHY (PDR)
Noticeable diabetic retinopathy changes may include:
- Blurred vision
- Impaired color vision
- Dark or empty areas in vision
- Fluctuating vision
- Vision loss
If you feel you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please contact our office to schedule an appointment at 215-699-7600
What can I expect during a visit to evaluate diabetic retinopathy?
After a comprehensive, dilated eye examination is performed by your ophthalmologist, a series of diagnostic tests may be ordered to better evaluate the health of your retina. These tests include, but are not limited to:
- Fundus Photography
- Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)
- Optical Coherence Tomography Angiography (OCT-A)
- Intravenous Fluorescein Angiography (IVFA)
- B (Bright) Scan Ultrasonography