What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic Retinopathy is an ocular complication of diabetes and occurs due to damage to the blood vessels which supply the retina. This results in the development of small haemorrhages and the inflammation of tissue.
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The Retina is the light sensitive tissue which lines the inside of the eye. It collects images which are subsequently sent to the Brain through the Optic Nerve for processing. It is like a canvas onto which images are projected, like in cinemas.
If any person suffers damage to this tissue, it may seriously affect their vision in a permanent and irreversible manner. That is why it is very important to detect its existence in time in order to prevent this damage to the greatest possible extent.
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
The main problem is that, in the beginning, the disease goes unnoticed and when you do start to notice a reduction in vision, the damage may be irreversible. As the disease develops, any person affected by Diabetic Retinopathy will find it increasingly difficult to see images: he/she will see areas with a loss of definition of the image, which is sometimes described as “black spots”.
As the pathology is progressive by nature the “spots” will spread and it may eventually lead to total blindness.
Furthermore, although the disease may affect both eyes, if it does not do so at the same time, this will be an additional negative factor in relation to its early detection by the patient and when he/she does begin to notice its effects, the likelihood is that the disease will have developed and that the damage caused may be irreversible.
Diagnosis and Treatment
As for any pathology related to the Retina and, in particular, any which is initially asymptomatic, prevention is the best cure.
A diabetic or any patient with a family history must therefore seriously consider the need to submit to a simple test on a regular basis: once a year is recommended.
The first measure is to strictly control blood-sugar levels. That will considerably reduce the long-term risk of a loss of vision.
The therapeutic approach to diabetic retinopathy has changed in recent years due to new anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic drugs. These drugs are injected into the eye – a very simple and quick procedure – which controls the disease and even improves the patient’s vision.
Other additional treatments are sometimes required, such as laser application, to seal any possible “leakages” of fluid. These treatments are performed during consultation and do not require any subsequent rest period.
In the most advances cases which involve significant bleeding, a surgical technique known as a Vitrectomy must be performed with a view to removing any vitreous body darkened by blood and applying a laser to the damaged areas.
Frequently asked questions about Diabetic Retinopathy
Can patients of both kinds of diabetes suffer from this disease?
All diabetics, whether they are concerned by type 1 or type 2, are at risk of suffering from this disease.
What are the other risk factors of Diabetic Retinopathy?
Being a diabetic is the predominant risk factor in developing the disease. There are other factors which affect the emergence and progression of diabetic retinopathy such as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity or, by and large, a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet. Pregnant diabetic women must submit to a test with the ophthalmologist to undergo a strict examination in all trimesters of pregnancy.
Is there any way to prevent diabetic retinopathy?
No. As things currently stand, there is no way to prevent the onset of diabetic retinopathy. At any rate, leading a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy diet may reduce the possibility that it will occur.
How often should I visit my ophthalmologist?
In general, you should visit the ophthalmologist once a year. If you suffer from diabetic retinopathy, it is better to increase the frequency of visits to prevent the disease from advancing.
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