Diabetes is a disease that affects blood vessels throughout the body. When the blood vessels in the eyes are affected, this is called Diabetic Retinopathy.
The retina is attached at the back wall of the eye. It detects visual images and sends them to the brain. Major blood vessels lie on the front portion of the retina. When the blood vessels are damaged due to diabetes, they may leak fluid or blood and grow scar tissue which can damage the retina and affect the ability of the retina to detect and transmit images. This can result in worsening vision to the point of blindness if not diagnosed and treated appropriately.
During the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, vision is typically not affected. However, when retinopathy becomes advanced, new blood vessels grow in the retina. These new vessels are the body’s attempt to overcome and replace the vessels that have been damaged by diabetes, but these new vessels are not normal. They may bleed and cause a persons vision to become hazy, occasionally resulting in complete loss of vision. The growth of abnormal blood vessels on the iris of the eye can lead to a very severe glaucoma known as “neovascular glaucoma”. This can cause extremely high eye pressures which can damage the optic nerve as well. Diabetic retinopathy can also cause your eye to form cataracts at earlier ages.
The new vessels also may damage the retina by forming scar tissue, and pulling the retina away from its proper location. This is called a “tractional retinal detachment”. This can lead to blindness if left untreated.
There are usually no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. Some symptoms may include:
- New Floaters (black spots in vision)
- Difficulty reading or doing work close up
- Blurry or Double vision
Everyone who has diabetes is at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, but not everyone develops it. Changes in blood sugar levels increase the risk. Generally, diabetics don’t develop diabetic retinopathy until they’ve had diabetes for at least ten years.
There are usually no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. Vision may not change until the disease becomes severe. An eye exam is often the only way to diagnose changes in the vessels of your eyes. This is why regular examinations for people with diabetes are very important.
The Advanced Eye institute physicians are able to perform detailed diabetic retinopathy screenings, and we are very lucky to have Dr. Satish Arora coming to our Thibodaux office weekly if medical or surgical interventions are deemed to be necessary. Dr. Arora is a fellowship trained retina specialist who also has an office in Houma. He is Houma/Thibodaux area’s only full time retinal specialist. We feel it is important to have a fellowship trained retinal specialist involved in your care if your diabetic retinopathy has advanced to the point of needing medical, laser, or surgical treatments. We work very closely with Dr. Arora and his staff to make sure our patients are well taken care of. We also work closely with many primary care physicians and endocrinologists in the area, and are able to better coordinate care for your diabetes this way. If the diabetes is affecting the eye and retina it safe to say it is likely affecting other organ systems in the body. You may need coordinated medical care from different types of physicians as care for diabetes is often a team effort!
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Thibodaux : 985-446-0506 | Houma : 985-879-2393