Diabetes is a disease that affects the body’s ability to produce or use insulin effectively to control blood sugar (glucose) levels. Although glucose is an important source of energy for the body’s cells, too much glucose in the blood for a long time can cause damage in many parts of the body, including the heart, kidneys, blood vessels and the small blood vessels in the eyes.
When the blood vessels in the eye’s retina (the light sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye) swell, leak or close off completely — or if abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina — it is called diabetic retinopathy.
Your treatment is based on what your ophthalmologist sees in your eyes. Treatment options may include:
Controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure can stop vision loss. Carefully follow the diet your nutritionist has recommended. Take the medicine your diabetes doctor prescribed for you. Sometimes, good sugar control can even bring some of your vision back. Controlling your blood pressure keeps your eye’s blood vessels healthy.
One type of medication is called “anti-VEGF” medication. This helps to reduce swelling of the macula, slowing vision loss and perhaps improving vision. This drug is given by injections (shots) in the eye. Steroid medicine is another option to reduce macular swelling. This is also given as injections in the eye. Your doctor will recommend how many medication injections you will need over time.
If you have advanced PDR, your ophthalmologist may recommend surgery called vitrectomy. Your ophthalmologist removes vitreous gel and blood from leaking vessels in the back of your eye. This allows light rays to focus properly on the retina again. Scar tissue also might be removed from the retina.
Preventing vision loss from diabetic retinopathy
- If you have diabetes, talk with your primary care doctor about controlling your blood sugar. High blood sugar damages retinal blood vessels. That causes vision loss.
- Do you have high blood pressure or kidney problems? Ask your doctor about ways to manage and treat these problems.
- See your ophthalmologist regularly for dilated eye exams. Diabetic retinopathy may be found before you even notice any vision problems.
- If you notice vision changes in one or both eyes, call your ophthalmologist right away.
- Get treatment for diabetic retinopathy as soon as possible. This is the best way to prevent vision loss.
The information contained here was adapted from EyeSmart – The American Academy of Ophthalmology