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Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy Symptoms & Treatment

What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy, the most common diabetic eye disease, occurs when blood vessels in the retina change. Sometimes these vessels swell and leak fluid or even close off completely. In other cases, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina.

How Does it Affect Your Eyes?

Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes. People who have diabetic retinopathy often don’t notice changes in their vision in the disease’s early stages. But as it progresses, diabetic retinopathy usually causes vision loss that in many cases cannot be reversed.

Types of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic eye problems are common among people with this disease. There are two types of diabetic retinopathy that you should be aware of: background or nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) and proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR).

Background or Nonproliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR)

Nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) is the earliest stage of diabetic retinopathy. With this condition, damaged blood vessels in the retina begin to leak extra fluid and small amounts of blood into the eye. Sometimes, deposits of cholesterol or other fats from the blood may leak into the retina.
Symptoms of NDPR
NPDR can cause many types of changes in the eye, including:
  • Microaneurysms: Small bulges in blood vessels of the retina that often leak fluid.
  • Retinal hemorrhages: Tiny spots of blood that leak into the retina.
  • Hard exudates: Deposits of cholesterol or other fats from the blood that have leaked into the retina.
  • Macular edema: Swelling or thickening of the macula caused by fluid leaking from the retina’s blood vessels. The macula doesn’t function properly when it is swollen. Macular edema is the most common cause of vision loss in diabetes.
  • Macular ischemia: Small blood vessels (capillaries) close. Your vision blurs because the macula no longer receives enough blood to work properly.
Many people with diabetes have mild NPDR, which usually does not affect their vision. However, if their vision is affected, it is the result of macular edema and macular ischemia.

Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR)

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) mainly occurs when many of the blood vessels in the retina close, preventing enough blood flow. In an attempt to supply blood to the area where the original vessels closed, the retina responds by growing new blood vessels. This is called neovascularization. However, these new blood vessels are abnormal and do not supply the retina with proper blood flow. The new vessels are also often accompanied by scar tissue that may cause the retina to wrinkle or detach.
Symptoms of PDR
PDR may cause more severe vision loss than NPDR because it can affect both central and peripheral vision. PDR affects vision in the following ways:
  • Vitreous hemorrhage: Delicate new blood vessels bleed into the vitreous—the gel in the center of the eye—preventing light rays from reaching the retina. If the vitreous hemorrhage is small, you may see a few new, dark floaters. A very large hemorrhage might block out all vision, allowing you to perceive only light and dark. Vitreous hemorrhage alone does not cause permanent vision loss. When the blood clears, your vision may return to its former level unless the macula has been damaged.
  • Traction retinal detachment: Scar tissue from neovascularization shrinks, causing the retina to wrinkle and pull from its normal position. Macular wrinkling can distort your vision. More severe vision loss can occur if the macula or large areas of the retina are detached.
  • Neovascular glaucoma: If a number of retinal vessels are closed, neovascularization can occur in the iris (the colored part of the eye). In this condition, the new blood vessels may block the normal flow of fluid out of the eye. Pressure builds up in the eye, a particularly severe condition that causes damage to the optic nerve.

Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment

The type of diabetic retinopathy you have will determine the course of treatment your ophthalmologist chooses. Options may include medication, improving factors such as blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and surgery. Only your eye doctor can tell you which of these methods will work best for you. Call Rock Hill Eye Center for an appointment to discuss your condition.
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Additional Retina Services

General Information

A healthy, intact retina is key to clear vision. Unfortunately, many people suffer from retinal diseases and don’t even realize it. Our ophthalmologist at Rock Hill Eye Center will examine your eyes and watch for any signs of these problems.

Age Related Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a breakdown of the part of your retina that controls your central vision. The most common cause of this retinal disease is aging. Learn about the two major types of macular degeneration and why seeing an ophthalmologist is so important.

Flashes and Floaters

Eye flashes and floaters can be distracting. But are they a sign of a more serious issue with your retinas? Our eye doctors can help rule out any more serious retinal diseases.

Retinal Tear / Detachment

Not all eye conditions require immediate treatment—but a torn or detached retina does. If you’ve suffered a blow to the eye, visit an ophthalmologist as quickly as possible for an exam. It could save your vision.

Plaquenil Eye Exams

We perform different tests to detect retinal damage due to Plaquenil medication.

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