At Andersen Eye Associates, we offer Diabetic Eye Care services for patients who are experiencing diabetes-related vision problems. We most commonly treat patients with diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes involving abnormal blood vessels, which nourish the retina of the eye.
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among adults. Approximately 25% of current diabetics have some form of the disease. The risk of developing diabetic retinopathy increases with the age of the diabetic person and the duration of the disease. It is estimated that 90% of diabetics may experience some form of diabetic retinopathy over the course of their life. However, only a small percentage of those developing diabetic retinopathy have serious vision problems and even a smaller percentage become blind.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes mellitus, which causes abnormalities in the tiny blood vessels nourishing the retina - a thin layer of delicate nerve tissue that lines the back portion of the eye. These vessels weaken, leak fluid and blood, and fail to provide nutrients necessary for good health in the retina. Left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can result in severe visual loss, including blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy can take two forms, background retinopathy and proliferative retinopathy. During the early stage of the disease (background retinopathy), small blood vessels in the retina leak a clear fluid (serum) into the surrounding tissue, which causes swelling. Abnormal blood vessels may also hemorrhage or leak fats and proteins that form deposits. If fluid collects in the macula, diminished or blurred vision will result. However, if leakage or deposits occur in the outer edges of the retina, no symptoms may be noticed. Sight is not usually seriously affected in cases of background retinopathy.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the more advanced stage of the disease. New abnormal blood vessels grow over the retina and may grow into the clear vitreous. These new vessels bleed into the vitreous, blocking light from reaching the retina and causing vision to become cloudy. Connective tissue growing along with abnormal blood vessels may contract, pulling the retina off its underlying structures and toward the vitreous (retinal detachment). Proliferative retinopathy affects approximately 5% of all diabetics and becomes more likely with increased duration of diabetes.
The cause of diabetic retinopathy is not completely understood. However, it is known that diabetes weakens small blood vessels in various areas of the body, including the retina. Unfortunately, the development of diabetic retinopathy cannot be prevented.
Though vision may gradually become blurred, significant loss of sight does not usually occur with background retinopathy. Since the patient does not experience pain or external symptoms, such as bloodshot eyes or discharge, changes in retina can go unnoticed unless detected by an eye examination.
When bleeding occurs in proliferative retinopathy, the patient has clouding or complete loss of sight. Connective tissue pulling on the retina causes distortion and blurring. However, if abnormalities occur in the peripheral retina, the patient may not experience any symptoms.
A comprehensive eye examination is the best protection against the progression of diabetic retinopathy. The disease can be detected by viewing the retina with instruments that illuminate and magnify the structures of the eye. If diabetic retinopathy is found, flourescein angiography is performed to determine the extent of blood vessel leakage.
Treatment of diabetic retinopathy depends on the location of the disease and the degree of damage to the retina. If retinopathy occurs in the peripheral retina, careful monitoring of the disease may be all that is necessary. When retinopathy affects the macula and central vision, laser treatment may be necessary. Laser treatment of diabetic retinopathy is usually done on an outpatient basis in an office of outpatient center.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy or other vision problems, you should obtain a complete eye examination. If you have diabetes mellitus, you should have a dilated eye examination at least once a year for the rest of your life.
Contact Andersen Eye Associates today to schedule an eye examination.
Andersen Eye Associates proudly serves the Greater Saginaw region including Flint, Frankenmuth, Bay City, Midland, Bridgeport, Bad Axe, Mount Pleasant, and surrounding areas.