Diabetic Retinopathy and Your Eyes
Diabetes can impact your eyes. It increases your chances of developing both glaucoma and cataracts, but people still develop those eye diseases even if they don’t have diabetes.
The main eye disease to worry about with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy, which happens to be one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S.
We treat diabetic retinopathy at Millennium Park Eye Center.
What is diabetic retinopathy?
In our eyes, the retina is a thin layer of tissue at the back of the eyeball. It contains light-sensitive cells. These cells trigger nerve impulses that are transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve. These impulses are then interpreted in the brain, which forms a visual image.
Diabetic retinopathy is caused by changes in the blood vessels in the retina. These vessels may swell and leak fluid. Abnormal blood vessels may grow on the surface of the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can develop in anyone who has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely diabetic retinopathy will develop.
What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?
Like many eye diseases, diabetic retinopathy often doesn’t show early symptoms, but damage can be occurring in the eye. It usually affects both eyes. Symptoms may include:
- Blurred vision
- Fluctuating vision
- Impaired color vision
- Dark or empty areas in your vision
- Vision loss
That’s why we stress the value of regular eye exams with the team at Millennium Park. If you have diabetes, you should follow a schedule of yearly eye exams. That way, when we dilate your eyes, we can see early signs of the disease.
How is diabetic retinopathy treated?
If diagnosed in the early stages, simply managing blood sugar can effectively slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy. There are some medications in the test phases that are also showing promise in preventing abnormal blood vessels from forming in the eye.
If you have proliferative (advanced) diabetic retinopathy, you’ll need surgery. We may use photocoagulation, where laser energy closes the leaking blood vessels. In panretinal photocoagulation, lasers are used to create burns away from the macula (the center of your vision), causing the abnormal blood vessels to shrink and scar. A vitrectomy is a surgical procedure that creates a tiny incision in your eye to remove blood from the vitreous, along with the scar tissue that is pulling on the retina.
If you have any of the above symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, please call us at Millennium Park Eye Center, (312) 996-2020, as soon as possible.