DON’T LET THE SWEETNESS BLUR YOUR VISION. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder which interferes with the body’s ability to use and store sugar. It usually affects adults in their late forties or fifties. However, these days owing to lifestyle changes even young people can get diabetes. The classic symptoms of diabetes are increased thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, tiredness, or blurred vision.
Uncontrolled diabetes can affect eyes, nerves, and kidneys. Individuals with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts at a younger age and are twice as likely to develop glaucoma as are non-diabetics. However, the primary vision problem caused by diabetes is Diabetic Retinopathy which damages the blood vessels of the retina.
Diabetic retinopathy is a silent vision stealer. In the early stages, there are hardly any symptoms. Hence, a diabetic must strictly get the eye exam done every year. If detected early, vision loss can be prevented. But, once the damage is done, the effects may become irreversible.
All diabetics are at risk of getting Diabetic Retinopathy. The risk multiplies the longer a person lives with diabetes. It has been observed that about 80% of long-standing diabetics (15 years or more of diabetes) have some damage in the blood vessels of the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can occur at a young age in juvenile diabetics.
The eye doctor will do a comprehensive eye investigation to detect Diabetic Retinopathy. The eye exam includes visual acuity tests, eye pressure measurements and direct visualisation of the retina with an Indirect Ophthalmoscope Sometimes the ophthalmologist may require more extensive imaging with technology like Fundus Fluorescein Angiography (FFA) and Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) to capture the details of the damage caused by abnormal blood vessels & assess the severity of the condition.
There are two types of treatments available, Laser Photocoagulation and Vitrectomy.
It is the most common line of action for Diabetic retinopathy treatment. But remember, this can only save the existing sight and may not be possible to make it better. In laser treatment, the retina specialist uses a laser to destroy areas of the retina deprived of oxygen which helps to prevent growth of new blood vessels (which are abnormal and easily break leading to bleeding in the eye) into these areas. It can be done in multiple sessions. In most cases, this procedure causes the new blood vessels to regress and swelling to subside. It usually takes three to four months to be fully effective.
Sometimes the new blood vessels bleed into the gel-like centre (vitreous) of the eye. This condition – Vitreous haemorrhage can lead to a sudden loss of vision. If the vitreous haemorrhage is persistent then a procedure called Vitrectomy is recommended. This is a microsurgical procedure for diabetic retinopathy treatment which removes the blood and scar tissue from the centre of the eye. Many patients have improved vision after vitrectomy.
These help patients with gross swelling in the macula. It may require injections into the eye
of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitor drug or steroid to reduce the growth
of abnormal blood vessels and leakage of fluid from them. These may also be used prior to
surgery to reduce the bleeding.
The choice of treatment depends on the stage of the disease, the age of the patient and the
recommendations of the retina specialist.
Success Rate for Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment
Patients who have already lost vision from the disease usually do not regain the original vision. However, vision loss from complications such as bleeding into the eye or cataracts can be regained after diabetic retinopathy treatment. There is evidence that proper blood sugar control can delay and limit the progression and complications of Diabetic Retinopathy for people with diabetes.