WHAT IS DIABETIC RETINOPATHY?
Diabetic retinopathy is caused by the breakage of tiny blood vessels in the retina due to high blood sugar, resulting in hemorrhages in the retina. Untreated diabetes, poor diabetes maintenance and poor blood sugar regulation can greatly increase the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.
Depending on the disease’s severity, your sight can remain near normal — or can be lost entirely. Remaining vision may be blurred or distorted, and hemorrhaging may cause a deep reddish veil to form over the field of vision. Laser surgery is often effective, but you must then manage your diabetes carefully through medication, diet, exercise and frequent blood sugar monitoring.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF DIABETIC RETINOPATHY?
In early stages, diabetic retinopathy may show no symptoms. An annual eye exam is critical for early diagnosis if you are diabetic and have chronically high blood sugar levels.
As the disease progresses, the broken blood vessels cause swelling in the retinal tissue, and the patient can experience cloudy or blurry vision. Further complications can include floating spots and dark patches, and can lead to total blindness if untreated. These symptoms typically affect both eyes.
If you are experiencing:
- cloudy or blurry vision
- dark patches
- difficulty seeing at night
- floating spots or “floaters”
WHAT CAUSES DIABETIC RETINOPATHY?
Retinopathy is caused by damage to the retina resulting in vision impairment.
The retina is the light-sensitive inner layer of the eye. It is rich with blood vessels and serves an important role in the projection and relay of visual signals. Damage to the retina typically results from leaking blood vessels, or, in severe cases, detachment of the retinal lining from the back of the eye.
Diabetes is characterized by a decrease in the body’s natural ability to regulate and maintain stable levels of sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream. If you have diabetes, you are susceptible to retina damage. Diabetic retinopathy affects both Type I and Type II diabetics. Chronically high blood sugar causes an accumulation of fluid in the retina that bursts its tiny blood vessels. To restore circulation to the damaged area, your body may form new, irregular blood vessels. But these are especially susceptible to bursting.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR DIABETIC RETINOPATHY?
The first step in treating diabetic retinopathy is to carefully manage your diet to keep blood sugar at normal levels. In later stages, laser treatment may be effective in regaining some vision. Injections of specialized medicines can also address abnormal growth of blood vessels.
If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause total blindness.
LOW VISION REHABILITATION SERVICE
Losing vision doesn’t mean giving up on your life activities, it just means learning new ways to do them.
Braille Institute’s FREE Low Vision Rehabilitation Service includes personalized one-on-one appointments with Low Vision Specialists that will work with you to maximize your remaining vision by:
- Assessing your particular needs
- Providing practical tips on lighting, contrast enhancement and glare control
- Exploring devices that can help you accomplish everyday tasks like reading, watching TV, and more
In addition to appointments with Low Vision Specialists, Braille Institute’s regional centers offer a variety of programs and services for the blind and visually impaired including Independent Living Skills classes, Orientation & Mobility training, one-on-one technology classes, audio and braille books, and much more.
To learn more or to schedule a FREE one-on-one appointment with one of our Low Vision Specialists, call 1-800-BRAILLE (272-4553).