What You Can Do about Diabetic Retinopathy

As retinal specialists, we see the myriad of ways that chronic health conditions like diabetes can ravage eye health. We prefer not to see patients who have noticed the signs of diabetic retinopathy, not because we don’t want to help but because some degree of vision loss is often the first indicator that the retina has been damaged. Here, we discuss why it is so important to understand the nature of diabetic retinopathy and what to do to prevent or treat this condition.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetes is a general health condition in which there is too much glucose in the blood. In some cases, levels are consistently too high. In others, levels rise and fall dramatically. In either situation, the body suffers from too much glucose and dysregulated insulin use. The eyes suffer because they have tiny blood vessels and, when there is consistently too much glucose in the blood, these vessels get weak. Fluid and blood can leak from them, creating swelling and pressure at the back of the eye. The retina may sustain damage without so much as an ache or pain. This damage can result in blindness, so our objective is to detect the signs of diabetic retinopathy early, when we can provide treatment most efficiently.

Diabetic patients should see their ophthalmologist at least once every year. Exams may largely focus on observing the retina and blood vessels at the back of the eye. Screenings are painless and provide the extent of information the eye doctor needs to prescribe necessary care or lifestyle strategies. Two examples follow. 

Stay Physically Active

Regular exercise is important for all people. However, this recommendation has a different tone for diabetics. You see, when we work out, the body requires additional fuel. That fuel is gained by the conversion of blood glucose into energy for muscle movement. To that end, exercise that involves some degree of muscle-toning is an excellent option for prolonging the conversion of blood glucose into fuel. When this conversion occurs, it is easier for the body to remain regulated. 

Eat Healthy

Staying active is not a substitute for a poor diet. Like exercise, the diet recommendations for a diabetic patient have unique objectives. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t all about weight management. For the diabetic, it is crucial to have a sufficient amount of daily fiber in addition to lean meats, healthy fats, and appropriate starches. Fiber is important because it directly affects how quickly sugar gets absorbed. The slower the absorption, the more easily the body can maintain good blood sugar regulation.

The name of the game with diabetic retinopathy is to act preventatively and move quickly if signs of this condition are found during a comprehensive eye exam. VitreoRetinal Surgery, PLLC has several offices in Minnesota in which treatment for diabetic retinopathy is available. To schedule a consultation, call (800) VRS-2500 to locate an office near you. 

How Laser Treatment Benefits Diabetic Retinopathy

The National Institutes of Health report that approximately 2 out of 5 diabetics also have some degree of diabetic retinopathy. This condition, secondary to diabetes and unregulated blood sugar, can cause vision loss. Research indicates that children and adults with Type I and Type II diabetes, as well as pregnant women with gestational diabetes, are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. For this reason, regular dilated eye exams are advised for these patients. Several treatment options are available for this condition, including laser treatments such as photocoagulation.

How Laser Photocoagulation Helps Preserve Vision

The retina is a piece of tissue that sits at the back of the eye. Light lands on the retina and is translated into images through the optic nerve. Diabetic retinopathy involves swelling in the tiny blood vessels within the retina. Swelling causes blood and fluid to lead from the affected vessels. This can scar the retina or lead to detachment, in which the retina separates from the lining of the eye. Advanced diabetic retinopathy may involve the growth of abnormal blood vessels and excessive leakage of fluid and blood into the back of the eye.

Laser photocoagulation may be recommended as a method of stopping blood vessels from leaking. This quick procedure can also destroy abnormal blood vessels. One technique that is used is called focal photocoagulation, in which laser energy is direct to a small number of concentrated blood vessels. The heat from the laser seals off the blood vessels to prevent further leaking. Another technique, called scatter photocoagulation, may be done to destroy numerous abnormal blood vessels at once.

By destroying abnormal blood vessels and sealing those that are leaking, laser photocoagulation can slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy and vision loss. The procedure is conducted in the office. Patients are made comfortable with a local anesthetic administered as eye drops. Slight stinging may be felt or flashes of light seen as the laser works on blood vessels. The entire procedure is usually done in under an hour.

Know the Signs of Diabetic Retinopathy

Anyone who has been diagnosed with diabetes should be aware of the effects their condition could have on their eyes. Routine eye exams are vital, as is continued blood sugar management. Signs of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulty reading
  • “Cobwebs” in vision
  • Black spots or floaters in vision
  • “Holes” in vision
  • Not seeing well when driving
  • Difficulty seeing colors or becoming colorblind

When diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed early, conservative treatment using prescription medication may slow or halt the progress of blood vessel damage in the eyes.

If you have signs of diabetic retinopathy, schedule a comprehensive eye exam with us. Call 800) VRS-2500.

Discussing Diabetic Eye Disease

This month is when we turn our attention to diabetic eye disease awareness. A chronic health condition related to the body’s ability to use insulin and glucose efficiently, diabetes affects many systems. The effects of diabetes on eye health is one of several important matters for people with this medical problem. The retinal specialists in our practice encourage all diabetic patients to obtain a thorough ophthalmic exam every year, as well as prompt care for any changes in vision.

Common Types of Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetes is an influencing factor on the development of potentially serious eye diseases including glaucoma and cataracts. Some of the common problems that we help patients address include:

  • Diabetic retinopathy. Retinopathy is the term that we use to describe damage to the retina, tissue at the back of the eye. The retina has a rich blood supply from tiny blood vessels. These can be damaged over time due to the effects of diabetes, which causes them to leak blood and fluid into the retina. When fluid builds up here, the retina swells. As a result, vision can become cloudy. Diabetic retinopathy cannot be cured. It requires ongoing management to preserve vision.
  • Diabetic macular edema. This condition is a complication of untreated diabetic retinopathy. The macula is at the center of the retina. Fluid accumulation on this tissue affects some of the most detailed vision abilities. Treatment is designed to stop or, optimally, reverse vision loss.

Can Diabetic Eye Disease be Avoided?

If you have diabetes, this is an important question to ask. It is questions like these that are at the heart of events like Diabetes Eye Disease Awareness Month.

Some of the tips provided by eye health experts include:

  • Keep a close watch on cholesterol levels and blood pressure, as these factors also influence eye disease risk. Both can be managed with diet and exercise. If needed, a doctor may prescribe medication to keep levels under control.
  • Undergo a dilated eye exam every year. Some people with diabetes may be advised to maintain more than one exam a year. Each dilated eye exam observes the retina, macula, and optic nerve for signs of damage in supporting blood vessels. The sooner that abnormalities are found, the more effective treatment will be.
  • Pregnant women diagnosed with gestational diabetes are encouraged to protect eye health by following a low-sugar, high-fiber diet.

To see a retinal specialist in Minnesota, call (800) VRS-2500. VitreoRetinal Surgery, PA has offices in Minneapolis, Plymouth, Edina, and other cities.

If You Have Diabetes, You Need a Different Kind of Eye Exam

Certain medical conditions have a far reach in the body. Diabetes is one of them. Research has linked several risks to the continual elevation of blood glucose levels. Many of the secondary concerns related to diabetes involve the effect that too much glucose has on the walls of the veins throughout the body.

As you may know, the eyes have a complex network of tiny blood vessels. Because these vessels are so small and delicate, they are susceptible to the weakening that diabetes can cause. For this reason, people who have been diagnosed with diabetes are strongly encouraged to undergo a thorough diabetic eye exam as recommended by their physician.

Diabetic eye conditions that are concerning include general blurriness and a significant increase in the risk of glaucoma, cataracts, and retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a direct result of chronically high blood sugar. Over time, the deterioration of blood vessels in the eye leads to fluid seeping into the ocular structure. The retina is a vital part of the eye, located at the back wall adjacent to the optic nerve. The retina is responsible for passing light to the optic nerve so it can be transmitted to the brain. When fluid continually leaks from ocular blood vessels and onto the retina, damage occurs little by little. Without detection and proper treatment, diabetic retinopathy can cause vision loss.

Diabetic retinopathy is reportedly one of the leading causes of blindness. What we want our patients to know is that they have some degree of control over this risk. Clinical practice has demonstrated a high rate of success in the management of diabetic retinopathy when treatment is conducted early. Diabetic eye exams assist in this goal.

What is Involved in a Diabetic Eye Exam?

One of the primary differences between a routine eye exam and a diabetic eye exam is the inclusion of special tests that observe the retina, blood vessels, optic nerve, and other structures. These include:

  • Retinal photography using a special digital camera
  • Fluorescein Angiography is a special form of imaging that involves an injection of dye into the arm. The dye travels to the blood vessels of the eye, which are then observed with a special digital camera.
  • Ocular Coherence Tomography is a noninvasive type of imaging that observes the retina in real time, providing immediate results.

VitreoRetinal Surgery, PA proudly serve physicians and patients in areas including Plymouth, Duluth, Minneapolis, St. Cloud, and more. To locate an office near you, call 800) VRS-2500.

Diabetic Retinopathy Minneapolis, MN

The Importance of Knowing about Diabetic Eye Disease

November is Diabetic Eye Disease Month. Here, we discuss the risks that diabetic patients face and how long-term vision can be protected with a few simple steps.

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that has the potential to create a number of secondary problems in the body. As we have learned through years of research and practical experience, the eyes are particularly susceptible to the effects of unregulated blood sugar. In fact, studies show that the longer a person lives with diabetes, the greater their risk for diabetic retinopathy, a diabetic eye disease that could severely degrade vision.

How Diabetic Eye Disease Can Cause Vision Loss

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition in which the blood vessels at the back of the eye sustain damage. This can lead to:

  • Fluid accumulation around the retina and also in the vitreous cavity in front of the retina. This accumulation originates with weak, leaky blood vessels in this part of the eye. Initially, retinopathy does not show signs. Over time, weakness of one or more blood vessels can lead to a vitreous hemorrhage. Symptoms of this condition include blurry vision and floaters.
  • Macular edema. Swelling and fluid retention on the macula, the central part of the retina, may occur if diabetic retinopathy is not properly treated early on in its progression. As the macula swells, it may thicken, causing vision to become distorted.

In addition to diabetic retinopathy, statistics indicate that diabetes also increases the risk of vision-disrupting conditions like glaucoma and cataracts. Diabetic patients are at least twice as likely to develop one or both of these complications.

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Protecting Your Vision

The primary problem with diabetic eye disease is that symptoms do not typically manifest right away. Because the key to successful eye health is to commence with a management program during the early stages of diabetic eye disease, awareness is vital to protecting vision. Patients are encouraged to:

Get Help with Blood Sugar Management

We know from clinical studies that blood sugar regulation is directly related to the onset of diabetic eye disease. Therefore, diabetes management is critical to the prevention of retinopathy and other conditions that may cause vision loss. Additionally, some studies suggest that keeping cholesterol levels lower further increases one’s resistance to diabetic eye disease. Blood sugar management can come from a partnership with a doctor or nutritionist and can be highly successful when maintained on a regular basis.

Get Annual Dilated Eye Exams

Patients who have been diagnosed with diabetes have a lot to gain by quickly scheduling a dilated eye exam. These exams are more comprehensive, allowing the ophthalmologist to observe the optic nerve, retina, blood vessels, and other important structures in the eye. A dilated eye exam would ideally be the first place for diabetic eye disease to be detected. This paves the way for prompt and appropriate treatment.

Vitreo Retinal Surgery proudly serves patients throughout Minnesota, including St. Paul, Minneapolis, and more. Schedule your diabetic eye exam with an experienced retinal specialist by calling 800-VRS-2500.

Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy St. Paul, MN

Diabetic Macular Edema: What is it and What can be Done to Preserve Sight?

Floaters and blurry vision are relatively common experiences for most adults. Double-vision? Not so much. If these are visual disturbances that regularly appear in your field of vision, we encourage you to schedule a visit with a board-certified ophthalmologist sooner rather than later. These phenomena are potential indications of diabetes. If not properly diagnosed and treated, floaters, double-vision and blurriness could ultimately result in vision loss. Here, we discuss how these symptoms are related to diabetic macular edema (DME) and what we can do to help you preserve your eyesight.

Diabetic macular edema is a serious eye condition characterized by excess fluid accumulation in the macula. This is the part of the eye in which the most detailed vision capabilities are controlled. Fluid accumulates here when blood vessels in the eye leak. Diabetic macular edema is a complication of diabetic retinopathy, the primary condition that causes leakage from these blood vessels. When DME develops, it may do so in one of two forms:

  • Focal DME results from abnormalities in the blood vessels of the eye.
  • Diffuse DME results from swelling of the capillaries in the retina.

Diabetics whose blood sugar is not well-regulated are at risk of diabetic retinopathy and the complication of diabetic macular edema. Additional associated risks include:

  • An extended period of time with diabetes
  • Fluid retention
  • Severe high blood pressure
  • Hyperlipidemia (high-fat levels in the blood)
  • Hypoalbuminemia (low protein levels in the blood)

How an Ophthalmologist can Help

It is necessary for people with symptoms of diabetic eye disease to obtain regular eye exams. This enables physicians to stay ahead of complications of the chronic blood-sugar disease. If a patient presents with symptoms of diabetic macular edema, we work quickly and often alongside the person’s primary healthcare team to reduce pressure in the eye and stop the capillary bleeding.

Both focal and diffuse DME may be treated with laser eye surgery, though the technique for each differs slightly. Focal DME may be treated with a focal laser, whereas diffuse DME may be treated with a grid laser to cover a wider operative area.

Vitreo Retinal Surgery, PA has been established with the mission of helping patients save their sight. Our team is available for emergency care as needed, and has a strong commitment to treating patients as we would our own families. We have several facilities throughout Minnesota, including St. Cloud, Duluth, and Minneapolis. Call (800) VRS-2500 to locate an office near you.