Diabetic Retinopathy Symptoms

Almost every person who has diabetic retinopathy symptoms can avoid significant vision loss with good diabetic retinopathy treatment. That's the good news. The bad news is that there is no cure for this condition because no one has found a cure for diabetes. During the course of this disease, blood vessels in the eye begin to leak blood into the vitreous humor and eventually will cloud the sick person's vision. Sometimes, the cloudiness will dissipate all by itself, but other times, permanent damage will occur. An eye doctor will use laser photocoagulation to seal off these blood vessels and contain the damage. Then the physician may use a procedure called vitrectomy to remove the blood that has leaked into the eye. Eventually, the body will replace the lost vitreous humor caused by the procedures, and then the person's vision usually improves.

Unfortunately, by the time warning signs arise and the patient notices them, extensive damage may have already occurred. That's why a person who has this disease needs to have a yearly eye checkup as a regular part of his diabetic retinopathy treatment. A doctor can examine the eye to see if there has been any damage, even in those patients where there has not been any loss of vision. Some of the first problems that may come up are things that look like spiders or cobwebs floating in the eye, dark streaks or a red film in the eye, blurred vision, an empty spot in the middle of the vision field, a restricted ability to see at night, or having difficulty adjusting when walking from a brightly lit room to a dimly lit room. Any of these warning signs show that the condition of the eyes may have deteriorated and a vision check is a must.

For the diabetic, bad sugar levels in the blood cause many of the diabetic retinopathy symptoms. The body doesn't digest sugar properly. Too much sugar in the blood damages the small capillaries, the tiny blood vessels that carry the blood from the arteries to the veins. There are two types of this condition: nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) and proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR). NPDR happens when the walls of the blood vessels start to weaken, sometimes causing bulges in the walls. This includes the tiny vessels in the retina of the eye. As these places swell, they start oozing blood into the eye. Many times, a person doesn't even know he has NPDR. PDR is the more advanced part of this condition. Abnormal blood vessels may grow in the retina, restricting vision. These vessels can also grow into the vitrous, which is a jelly-like substance in the eye.

People value their eyesight. The psalmist says about the importance of the eye in Psalm 17:8, "Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings." One of the diabetic retinopathy symptoms can be blurred vision, caused by fluctuations in the blood-sugar levels. When these levels are elevated for a period of time, this weakens the walls of the vessels and more damage to the eye can occur. Sometimes this can happen even with good diabetic retinopathy treatment. Some risk factors include high blood pressure, conditions associated with pregnancy, high cholesterol, or a background of an African-American or Hispanic. People also experience one problem in dealing with this disease--they feel that if they have no diabetic retinopathy symptoms, they don't need to worry. But that attitude is wrong. The damage can be happening even when vision remains good and the person feels healthy.

When a patient comes into a physician's offices complaining of diabetic retinopathy symptoms, the doctor may order a test called a fluorescein angiography. This will look into the eye to look for any blood present. To do this, the doctor injects a dye into the patient's bloodstream, which circulates through the eyes and highlights any problems. A camera with special filters will then take pictures of these areas, giving the doctor a good idea of how much damage has been done so far. Another diabetic retinopathy treatment is an optical coherence tomography (OCT) exam. This takes pictures of the eyes that give high resolution images. This diagnostic tool can monitor the progression of the disease.

Photocoagulation is a way of stopping the blood leaking in the eye by coagulating those areas. Eye physicians use this regimen for more progressive diseases, not as a first-seen therapy. An eye doctor may order this procedure in cases of macular edema, a swelling of the retina, severe cases of the disease, PDR, and certain types of glaucoma. First, he numbs the eye, and then a high-energy laser burns places in the retina to seal any leaking. It is similar to how a welder crafts a weld in a leaking pipe. The doctor usually does this procedure in his office, and the patient can go home after completing the test. However, the patient won't be able to drive for some hours because of blurry vision. With PDR, eye surgeons sometimes use a laser surgery called panretinal or scatter photocoagulation. The entire retina except for the macula is treated with burns, which often stops hemorrhages. But this surgery can also cause a loss of side vision for that patient. Therefore, medical professionals don't risk this type of treatment unless the loss of vision is severe. But still, medical professionals advocate that a patient must keep current with doctor's visits and eye exams.

Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment

Diabetic retinopathy treatment is available for those persons with diabetes who have begun to have severe visual acuity loss due to the effects of the disease on their eyes. This vision problem comes as the result of damage to the blood vessels in the light-sensitive tissue near the back of the eye. This is the area of the eye where the retina is located. The retina contains millions of photoreceptors that capture light and converts the light into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain where they are converted into images. Rods and cones, the two types of photoreceptors in the retina each have specific functions in the eye with the rods helping a person see at night and peripherally and the cones working best in bright light and with colors.

Retinopathy caused by diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. In some cases, retinopathy caused by diabetes will cause blood vessels to swell and leak fluid. Other times, new but abnormal blood vessels may grow on the surface of the retina and while the changes in vision may be progressive and not be noticed initially, without diabetic retinopathy treatment, blindness could certainly be one of the outcomes. Eye disease caused by diabetes has four stages and needs to be caught early so that effective diabetic retinopathy treatment and therapies can be mounted against a disease that wants to progress over time. Jesus talked often about blindness, but this blindness was the inability to see spiritually. "For judgment I am come into this world that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind." (John 9:39) Jesus was inferring that the most religious are often the most spiritually blind.

Every person who has diabetes is at risk for contracting this vision disease. It is estimated that forty to forty-five percent of all those with diabetes do contract retinopathy in some form or another. This means that in order to have diabetic retinopathy treatment that is effective, the individual that has been diagnosed with this disease should have a vision test once a year in order to have any sign of retinopathy treated early and aggressively. This disease usually affects both eyes and progresses in four stages: mild, moderate, severe and proliferative. By the time the disease reaches the fourth stage the chances for blindness are quite realistic without physician care. It is estimated that ninety five percent of all patients with proliferative retinopathy can reduce their risk of blindness with regular and comprehensive dilated eye exams.

One of the real disturbing things about diabetic retinopathy is the fact that it often has no symptoms. That is to say no symptoms in the early stages. This means that while someone who has had diabetes for a few years will most likely have no symptoms. Most diabetic retinopathy treatment experts say that symptoms of the disease don't really start showing up until about year twenty, but of course this will largely depend on how well the diabetic keeps the blood sugar levels under control. But all the while the disease is progressing, there is some damage being done to the eye, hopefully only mild damage. But that does mean that a diabetic sufferer will have to have yearly diabetic retinopathy treatment exams to gain combative treatment to keep the retinopathy from progressing aggressively.
For the person whose eyes are becoming damaged from diabetes, for example if the damage has extended to the proliferative stage, there are some surgical treatments that may help sight loss. Diabetes can cause the eye to leak fluid and blood and a laser surgery called focal laser treatment can help stem the flow. The laser seals off leaks with actual laser burns. Another treatment called scatter laser treatment actually shrinks blood vessels. This treatment often takes more than one visit to the ophthalmologist. A virectomy is actual surgery on the eye where an incision is made in the eye and several days of a hospital stay may be required. Surgery never is a final diabetic retinopathy treatment, but only one of the ways to help secure vision for the future.

Up till now, there is often no way that medicine taken orally can really help when issues in the eye begin to occur. It hurts even typing these words, but there are injections (ouch) directly into the eyeball that are given to help curb leaky blood vessels. Actually that laser isn't sounding so bad about now! But there is at least one medicine taken orally that is on the horizon called Arxxant that has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Hurry up and get those pills here!

But seriously, all of these surgical techniques, as wonderful as they are, and the future medicine that is soon to arrive, as blessed as it might be, cannot stop the steady march of retinopathy caused by diabetes. Until a cure for that dreaded disease is found, life will always be tough for the diabetic. Some nerve damage is going to be inevitable, even when a person keeps his or her blood sugar levels as normal and level as possible. But the truly damaging aspects of the disease can certainly be kept to a minimum by keeping a good relationship with one's diabetic retinopathy treatment specialist. Stay on top of all the latest information on new treatments and medicines that will be coming on the market. Be an advocate for your own health issues.

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