The light-sensitive layer of retinal cells converts light into electrical signals which are then sent to the brain where they are turned into the images we see. A brilliant network of tiny blood vessels constantly supplies blood to the retina.
Hyperglycemia, a condition where glucose levels in the blood are high, can affect every part of the body, including the precious eyes. The negative impact of hyperglycemia is blurry vision which is a sign of diabetes.
If the sugar levels are not maintained at normal levels, blurriness doesn’t go away. Diabetes mellitus causes damage to the blood vessels supplying blood to the retina of the eye. This may lead to blindness.
More about Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is caused by hyperglycemia or high blood sugar levels. In this condition, blood vessels of the retina are damaged and they swell or leak the blood. This leads to vision loss if left undiagnosed and untreated. Usually, diabetic retinopathy takes many years to reach a stage where it can lead to total blindness.
Diabetic Retinopathy, a global phenomenon
As per the World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, it is estimated that diabetic retinopathy accounted for around 5% of the number of cases of blindness worldwide. With the increasing incidence of diabetes, the chances of people having diabetic retinopathy also increases tremendously. The number of individuals with diabetic retinopathy is expected to rise to about 592 million by the year 2035.
In countries like India, the prevalence of diabetes mellitus has increased dramatically and about 62.4 million people in India have diabetes. A pooled analysis of 22896 individuals with diabetes from 35 population-based studies in Australia, the United States, Europe, and Asia showed that the prevalence of Diabetic Retinopathy is 34.6%.
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
Generally, diabetic retinopathy affects both the eyes. The early stages of diabetic retinopathy usually do not show any signs and symptoms. As the complication advances, it can lead to:
- Spots in vision
- Fluctuating or blurred vision
- Empty or dark areas in the vision
- Blindness or vision loss
Complications of Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy complications can result in serious vision problems, including:
Vitreous haemorrhage: It occurs when new blood vessels start to bleed into the vitreous fluid. When this complication is minor, you may see floaters. However, in severe haemorrhage, blood fills the vitreous cavity and temporarily blocks the vision completely. This complication takes a few weeks or months to clear unless the retina is damaged.
Glaucoma: Diabetic retinopathy causes new blood vessels to grow in the front of the eye as well. This results in a buildup of eye pressure and interference with the normal fluid flow. Glaucoma can damage the optic nerve and can lead to permanent blindness.
Retinal detachment: When damaged blood vessels pull the retina away from the support tissue, retinal detachment occurs. In this condition, you may observe floaters and flashes of light initially and then complete obscuration of vision.
Can DR be treated/reversed?
Fortunately, diabetic retinopathy is preventable and also treatable. Maintaining blood sugar at an optimal level can help to prevent this serious condition. As controlled diabetes can also lead to diabetic retinopathy, it is advised to have your eyes examined regularly. This way, your ophthalmologist can diagnose and treat any retinal damage as early as possible. Also, reversing diabetic retinopathy is very much possible when this vision-threatening condition is detected in the early stages.
Diabetic retinopathy is a serious condition due to diabetes; hence it demands good management of blood sugar levels. For advanced stages of this eye complication, treatments like eye injections to treat severe maculopathy or laser eye surgery are available.
In reputed hospitals like Neoretina Eye Care Institute, state of the art treatment facilities are available. Apart from systemic diabetes control, the retina surgeons here offer laser surgery and intravitreal injections for macular oedema, Laser surgery for proliferative diabetic retinopathy and Microincision Sutureless Vitrectomy for Retinal detachment in advanced cases . Your ophthalmologist may also prescribe intraocular steroids and other medications to treat this condition. Vitrectomy surgery is also offered in reputed hospitals to remove vitreous haemorrhage.
Precautions for reducing the risk of Diabetic Retinopathy
Reduce the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, or you can also help stop this condition from getting worse, by maintaining the blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels at optimal levels. In order to avoid Diabetic Retinopathy make the choice of a healthy lifestyle like eating balanced meals, regular exercise, avoiding smoking etc.
Do not miss your regular eye-examinations as many eye complications can be detected early through such screening and vision loss can be prevented. With treatment diabetic retinopathy can be reversed to an extent. But the best thing is to prevent it with early diagnosis.