Diabetes is a common disease that has affected myriads of people worldwide. In 2021, a staggering 537 million adults – 1 in 10 people worldwide – were grappling with Diabetes. And, by 2030, this number is expected to rise to 643 million, which is a harsh truth to bear.
An even more difficult truth about Diabetes is that it doesn’t only cause high blood sugar levels and dietary restrictions, it stealthily damages our vital organs too! One of those organs is the eyes. Its impact on eye health leads to the occurrence of another disease known as Diabetic Retinopathy. This is a lesser-known but devastating consequence of uncontrolled Diabetes!
Diabetic Retinopathy is an eye condition that is like a ticking time bomb that can rob you of your precious sight – if left unchecked. Therefore, Viaan Eye & Retina Centre brings this blog to help you know all about the disease, shedding light on its causes, symptoms, and most importantly, how you can protect your vision from this relentless adversary. So, let’s get started –
What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?
As mentioned above, Diabetic Retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that affects the eyes. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the tiny blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive part at the back of the eye. This damage can lead to vision problems and even blindness – if left untreated.
This condition often develops without noticeable symptoms. Therefore, regular eye check-ups are essential for people with diabetes, as they help in catching and managing the disease early.
Stages Of Diabetic Retinopathy
There are two stages of this disease –
Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
NPDR, or Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy, is an early stage of this eye condition which causes mild vision problems that may go unnoticed. In it, tiny blood vessels in the eye start to leak, which makes the retina swell. When this swelling occurs in the central part of the retina, known as the Macula, it is called Macular Edema, and it is a common reason for vision loss in people with Diabetes.
Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
PDR, or Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy, is the advanced stage of this disease. It occurs when the retina starts growing new and delicate blood vessels, a process known as Neovascularization. These fragile new vessels can often bleed into the vitreous, the jelly-like substance in the eye. When there is minimal bleeding, you might notice a few dark floaters in your vision. However, if there is significant bleeding, it can block your entire vision! Additionally, these new blood vessels can lead to the formation of scar tissue, which can cause problems with the Macula or even result in a detached Retina.
PDR is a severe condition that can affect both your central and peripheral vision. Therefore, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention and treatment to prevent further vision loss.
Causes Of Diabetic Retinopathy
The main culprit behind Diabetic Retinopathy is uncontrolled diabetes, particularly when blood sugar levels remain high for an extended time. Prolonged elevated blood sugar levels can harm the delicate blood vessels in the retina, setting the stage for this eye condition.
Additionally, high blood pressure, also known as Hypertension, can heighten the risk of developing Diabetic Retinopathy. This is because Hypertension can inflict further damage on the eye’s blood vessels, worsening the condition.
So, it is not just Diabetes itself but also conditions like high blood pressure that can play a role in the development and progression of Diabetic Retinopathy. Hence, managing both Diabetes and blood pressure is crucial for your eye health.
Symptoms Of Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic Retinopathy often progresses without noticeable symptoms in its early stages. However, as the disease advances, you may experience the following –
Blurred or distorted vision
Difficulty in reading or seeing fine print
Sudden loss of vision
Further Complications Caused By Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic Retinopathy can lead to several serious eye conditions, including –
Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)
Over time, every 1 in 15 people with diabetes develop DME. As mentioned above, it is a condition that occurs when blood vessels in the Retina start leaking fluid into the Macula. This leakage leads to blurry vision, making it difficult to see fine details.
Diabetic Retinopathy can trigger the growth of abnormal blood vessels from the Retina, which can block the drainage of fluid from the eye. This blockage results in a specific type of Glaucoma, a group of eye diseases that can lead to vision loss and even blindness.
Diabetic Retinopathy can cause scars on the back of the eye. When these scars pull the Retina away from the back of the eye, it is termed as Tractional Retinal Detachment. This detachment can seriously impair your vision, and it requires prompt medical attention to prevent further damage.
Now, let us take a quick look at the ways in which Diabetic Retinopathy can be cured –
Treatment Options For Diabetic Retinopathy
There are several treatment options available that can help you manage Diabetic Retinopathy, depending on its severity.
Lifestyle Changes: Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, eating a balanced diet, and regular exercise can slow the progression of this eye condition.
Medications: Your doctor might suggest Intravitreal injections of anti-VEGF drugs to help reduce swelling and leakage from blood vessels.
Laser Therapy: Laser treatment can seal or shrink abnormal blood vessels in the Retina, controlling the disease.
Vitrectomy: In advanced cases, a surgical procedure called Vitrectomy may be necessary to remove blood or scar tissue from your eye.
To know which treatment option is best for you, book an appointment with the retina specialist at Viaan Eye & Retina Centre. We will help you take steps to protect your eyes, as they are the only window to a colorful world!