What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common vascular disease of the retina. It is caused by damage to the retinal blood vessels due to diabetic metabolic decompensation.
It can result in significant loss of vision.
What causes it?
When blood sugar levels are high, the walls of the retinal blood vessels are weakened and become more permeable, allowing fluid to enter the extracellular space. In more advanced cases, a proliferation of abnormal blood vessels are produced, causing bleeding.
The presence of blood in the vitreous space (the clear gel that fills the eyeball), causes it to become opaque, resulting in reduced vision that usually occurs abruptly.
|Diabetic retinopathy vision|
How can it be prevented?
Sufferers of diabetes should have their blood glucose, blood pressure and plasma lipids closely monitored.
Other factors that can lead to diabetic retinopathy include obesity, smoking and physical inactivity.
Patients (totalling over 200 million worldwide) require regular retina check-ups as diabetic retinopathy does not generally produce symptoms until the damage is severe.
|Diabetic retinopathy retina|
The patient is often unaware of the disease until severe damage has been caused. The symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:
- Blurred vision and gradual loss of vision
- The appearance of spots or floaters
- Shadows or areas where vision is missing
- Difficulty seeing at night
Retinopathy can affect the macula (the central area of the retina, responsible for detailed vision) or its periphery.
Depending on the area affected and the degree of development of the disease, specialists have different treatment options at their disposal, such as laser photocoagulation, intravitreal injections or surgery (vitrectomy).
Other visual complications associated with diabetes, such as glaucoma or cataracts, require specific treatments.
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