Diabetic Retinopathy

Treat diabetes-related eye disease with a Northern New England area eye care specialist.

People with diabetes need to take special care of their eyes. They are at higher risk for serious eye complications including glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy, a progressive disease that damages sensitive eye tissue and steals vision.

There are steps you can take to help keep your eyes healthy, including managing your diabetes and getting regular eye exams.

Unfortunately, there are no early symptoms for diabetic retinopathy, a disease of the blood vessels and eye tissue. It is vital that individuals with diabetes have comprehensive, dilated exams annually to catch this disease before it progresses.

Find a doctor specially trained in detecting and treating diabetic retinopathy. Find an office near you in the Northern New England area.

Understanding Diabetic Retinopathy

The eye is made up of a complex system of tissues and fluids that is supported by a network of oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood vessels.

Complications of diabetes can change the health of these blood vessels affecting the availability of nutrients, the supply of oxygen, and the management of fluids.

Long-term, these complications can irreversibly damage important areas of the eye used for sight, including the retina and the macula.

Eye doctors identify diabetic retinopathy by the stage of disease progression including:

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the early stage of this disease. Symptoms can be mild or unnoticeable. The blood vessels in the retina are weakened causing tiny bulges, or microaneurysms, which leak fluid into the retina and may cause swelling of the macula.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the more advanced form of this disease with very damaged blood vessels. Eye tissue is deprived of oxygen and new blood vessels form, causing swelling, scarring, and complications. The eye may begin to fill with a jelly-like substance.

Many additional complications are possible including scarring and shrinking of tissue and detachment of the retina and the development of glaucoma. Untreated, proliferative diabetic retinopathy can cause vision loss or blindness.

Treating Diabetic Retinopathy

Treatment for diabetic retinopathy focuses on slowing or stopping the progression of the disease. The good news is that advances in medical laser technology and surgery have created many promising options for treating diabetic retinopathy and preserving useful vision.

The first step is regular monitoring by an eye doctor to detect and track disease progress. In the later stages of the disease there are two treatment methods:

Photocoagulation is an advanced laser treatment to stop the leakage of blood and fluid into the retina. A precise laser is used to seal off leaks and prevent damaging, new blood vessel growth.

Vitrectomy is a surgical procedure to help clear cloudy fluids and scar tissue caused by very advanced stages of this disease.

Despite these advances, diabetic retinopathy can cause significant vision loss. Talk to your doctor about low vision support including telescopic and microscopic lenses, hand and stand magnifiers, and video magnification systems that can help make the most of remaining vision.

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