Diabetic Retinopathy | How to prevent diabetic eye disease

Image of a woman conducting routine check for diabetic retinopathy

Are you suffering from diabetes? Do you feel that your vision is blurred or abnormal at times? If yes, then keep reading this article on diabetic retinopathy. It is a condition that is caused by damage to the blood vessels that are present at the back of your retina. 

Have you ever experienced dark or empty areas in your vision? Or else, you might have experienced blurred, fluctuating, or weakened colour vision. Some people also feel that spots or dark strings floating in their vision. If your answer is yes & you are a diabetic person, then you must be careful & alert. As ignorance can lead to severe complications. This can lead to complete vision loss. 

Further reading this article, you will discover everything that you should know about diabetic retinopathy. Read it till the end as we know that half knowledge is always dangerous. And, when the matters are related to your health, you must be extra-cautious.

What do I need to know?

  1. What is diabetic retinopathy?
  2. Diabetic retinopathy symptoms
  3. How severe can this disease turn?
  4. How will it be diagnosed by your eye doctor?
  5. How will diabetic retinopathy be treated by your eye doctor?
  6. Things you must follow as a precautionary measure
  7. Conclusion
  8. FAQs
Image of eye specialist

It is a condition that you should never take lightly under any circumstances. As the repercussions could lead to permanent vision loss. Also, this condition can occur in the case of both type 1 & type 2 diabetic patients. So, you must learn about it & be more cautious from now onwards. Let’s begin.

1.  What is diabetic retinopathy?

It is an eye condition in which high blood sugar levels cause damage to the eye. The damage is caused to blood vessels at the back of your retina. The retina is your membrane that detects light & sends signals through the optic nerve. Your blood vessels can swell or bleed internally. This ultimately can steal your vision permanently. The longer you have diabetes, the more are the chances of developing this eye condition. This condition usually damages both your eyes. 

If you remain ignorant in the early stages, then you might develop complications. The reason being as time passes, your eye starts to develop new vessels. However, these vessels are generally weaker than the existing one. Therefore, these vessels can bleed or leak more easily. In the end, this can increase adversity for your eye health. 

2. Diabetic retinopathy symptoms

This eye condition does not reveal any symptoms in the early days. Hence, it is generally hard to diagnose. Keeping your sugar levels in control can therefore be one solution to prevent it. 

However, some certain signs & symptoms can be alarming for you. On finding such symptoms, you must contact your eye doctor immediately. 

Image of eye

So, what are these alarming signs?

If you face any of these symptoms, then you should immediately contact your doctor. Speedy diagnosis & treatment can save your eye’s life for years to come. An eye specialist called an ophthalmologist treats your eyes better under such circumstances. 

3. How severe can this disease turn?

If your eye condition remains untreated, then this disease can turn fatal to you. The later stages can make the blood vessels bleed into the vitreous. It is a gel-like fluid that is present in the centre of your eye. Under such circumstances, you start seeing floating spots or thin lines that look like a spider web. 

These situations should be taken seriously. Otherwise, it can worsen leading to scar development. 

Diabetic retinopathy Complication stages

Such a condition can cause other damage to your eye. Let’s discover how it can cause damage.

Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

This situation occurs when blood vessels bleed in the retina. That ultimately causes swelling in the macula. It is one of the parts of your retina. If this happens, then the condition is named Diabetic Macular Edema (DME). 

If you are suffering from DME, then your vision will get blurry. This is because of the extra fluid that is present in your retina.

Neovascular glaucoma

The condition can get severe & cause abnormal blood vessels to grow in your retina. These vessels can refrain fluid from draining out of your eye. Finally, it leads to a type of glaucoma. 

Retina detachment

If the conditions worsen severely, then it can create scars at the back of your eye. These scars pull off your retina away from the back of your eye.

Image of the eye affected due to Diabetic Retinopathy

4. How will it be diagnosed by your eye doctor?

Diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed by eye specialist through some examinations and tests. However, certain diabetic retinopathy treatments can be performed in later stages to ascertain the severity. You can understand every eye examination that is performed. 

Image of eye surgeries & treatment equipment

Dilated eye exam

In this case, your eye doctor puts a few fluid drops that make your pupils wide open. This further allows your doctor to check the inside structures of your eye. 

Your doctor will look for abnormal blood vessel growth, swelling or bleeding, or blockage. If the conditions are crucial, then the doctor might observe scars, changes to lens & nerve tissue. In advanced stages, your doctor might notice retinal detachment as well. 

Fluorescein angiography test

To perform this test, your doctor will inject a dye into your arm. This will help the doctor detect & track the blood vessel flows in your eye. Pictures will be taken to identify vessels that are broken, blocked, or bleeding. This is useful for further treatments in the case of diabetic retinopathy. 

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)

It is an imaging test that utilizes light waves to produce images of your retina. It helps your doctor analyze the cruciality of the present situation. It determines your retina’s thickness. Also, it tells about how much fluid, if there is any, is present in your retinal areas. 

5. How will diabetic retinopathy be treated by your eye doctor?

Generally, the treatment options are limited if you are going through an early stage. However, diabetic retinopathy diagnosis should be made at the earliest possible. 

Regular check-ups & eye moderations are the only way to protect yourself from turning it fatal for you. A specialist can treat you well in slowing down the retinopathy progression. This can be achieved by managing your diabetes skillfully. 

Advanced conditions & their treatments are dependent upon severity & type. Every condition is treated in different ways.

Damage to the macula can be treated skillfully with laser treatments. This treatment can prevent new blood vessel growth. Moreover, it can improve the oxygen supply to your retina. The treatment is generally painless. However, you must consult with your doctor about collateral risks. In other words, this treatment cannot stop damage but it can treat existing deterioration.

The growth of new blood vessels that are weak in reality can also be treated with lasers. This treats the starved areas of your retina. Vitrectomy removes scar tissue & extra fluid from the vitreous fluid of the eye. 

6. Things you must follow as a precautionary measure

Image telling to have a healthy diet to protect against Diabetic Retinopathy

You can always follow preventive measures before the disease gets severe. It will restrain the disease from turning dangerous for your body. So, what key things should be followed to prevent diabetic retinopathy. 

Firstly, you should always keep a check on your sugar levels. Make sure that the levels are not too high. You can achieve it by doing regular exercise & maintaining a healthy diet. Also, you must take your medicines carefully & on time. You must always obey your doctor’s instructions if you wish to stay fit & healthy. 

Moreover, high blood pressure & high cholesterol along with diabetic conditions increases your risks. So, you must keep these things in control. 

Lastly, you must carry out a yearly routine eye check-up. This will help your doctor in identifying the nitty-gritty of your eye structure. If the condition prevails, then corrective measures can be taken immediately. 

Image showing equipment to cure Diabetic Retinopathy

7. Conclusion

The risks of developing diabetic retinopathy are high among diabetic patients. However, the situation can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle. Also, you can avoid severe conditions by keeping your sugar levels in check. 

Lastly, even if you reach the advanced stages, then do not worry about it. The conditions can be treated at best. Damage can be minimized using laser & other pre-existing treatments. 

Also read our blog on Fatty Liver Disease | Stay Cautious before it turns fatal

8. FAQs

Answer: You can avoid it by keeping your sugar, cholesterol, & blood pressure levels in control. 

2. Who can get easily affected by diabetic eye disease?

Answer: A pregnant lady is at high risk to get affected due to diabetic eye disease. 

3. Can I go through permanent vision loss due to diabetic eye conditions?

Answer: Yes, you can suffer from permanent vision loss if the condition remains untreated. 

4. Can I detect diabetic eye disease earlier?

Answer: No, it is generally hard to recognize the condition in the beginning. However, routine eye check-ups can help you detect it earlier.

5. Can diabetic retinopathy be treated efficiently?

Answer: Yes, an eye doctor can suggest to you the best possible ways lessen the severity of diabetic eye disease. Laser treatment can be one option. 

Dr. Rishab Sharma

Dr. Rishab Sharma MBBS, MD (Internal Medicine) He is associated with Fortis Escorts Hospital, Jaipur. Dr. Rishab has wide experience in managing a variety of diseases, as well as managing critical care units in large government and corporate hospitals.