2nd Most Common Retinal Disease, Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) Keep an Eye on Your Blood Sugar
8th August 2019
Diabetic Retinopathy is the 2nd most common eye condition that affects the retina and is caused by diabetes, a high level of glucose in your blood for a prolonged time. While AMD is caused by accumulations of proteins and lipids, high sugar levels also cause damage to the retina. When this happens, and the blood vessels of the retina become damaged by excessive glucose, they may break and cause haemorrhages. DR can lead to blindness if untreated, and it can happen also to younger people, whereas AMD is prevalent in people over 50.
DR Symptoms in Vision
Initially, no symptoms are experienced, until the latest stage when the blood vessels burst and cause floaters and blurry vision as blood covers parts of the retina. Severe and untreated cases could lead to loss of central vision, colour vision and blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy is divided into three main stages:
- Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR), when no specific symptoms are experienced. Signs of narrow and blocked vessels are visible as red dots, by fundus photography, by an eye specialist examining the back of the eye.
- Macular edema happens when the blood vessels start to show signs of damage and leak fluids or blood into the macula which accumulates and causes swelling. At this stage, there are also visible changes, with distorted, darker and blurry vision. Which means the fluids or blood is covering parts of the macula. There are also differences in vision between the left and right eye, which is diagnosed with an OCT, optical coherence tomography where the fluid accumulation is visible.
- Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), happens when new blood vessels are forming due to lack of oxygen, as the other blood vessels are damaged and not bringing nutrients to the retina. This is the critical stage because the newly formed blood vessels are abnormal and fragile which may cause severe bleeds and/or new abnormal tissue growth. This could also develop into retinal detachment.
In severe cases, a vitrectomy performed by an eye surgeon with an operating microscope, is required. During the procedure, the vitreous body is removed and replaced with a saline solution, by doing so the blood is also removed.
Main Factors that Cause DR
The main factor for DR is high blood sugar levels, smoking may also affect DR. It’s important to have regular eye checks with your local optometrist or ophthalmologist to receive professional advice during your eye health check. Especially if affected by diabetes type 1 or type 2, a full eye check should be carried out once a year.
The image shown in this post is a 3D rendering of our new company building in Japan and is an example of how people affected by diabetic retinopathy may see it.
More on retinal diseases will follow in our next posts.
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