Understanding the Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy

When we hear medical terms like diabetic retinopathy, we can assume that the issue is you either have it or you don’t. This isn’t the case with most health conditions. Just as diabetes can vary in severity, so can diabetic retinopathy. Unlike diabetes, which affects a person’s blood sugar levels, diabetic retinopathy is a progressive condition that may not be reversible. Once you go from one stage to the next, it may not be possible to correct the damage that has been done.

As you may have guessed, diabetic retinopathy is a complication of dysregulated diabetes. When there is too much, then too little, then too much glucose in the blood, the tiny blood vessels that line the back of the eye where the retina lives sustain damage. The retina is an integral structure in the formation of eyesight. When this part of the eye is damaged, there is the potential for vision loss. A fortunate aspect of diabetic retinopathy is that this condition typically does not develop until a person has had diabetes for 3 to 5 years or more. Not every person with diabetes will develop diabetic retinopathy.

When blood sugar is well managed, eyesight is typically not threatened. In the instance of poor blood sugar regulation, diabetic retinopathy may progress through four stages: mild, moderate, severe non-proliferative retinopathy, and proliferative retinopathy.

  • Mild non-proliferative retinopathy is the earliest stage of blood vessel damage. In this stage, the tiny blood vessels develop what are called micro-aneurysms, which is swelling in the vessels.
  • Moderate non-proliferative retinopathy occurs when some of the tiny blood vessels in the retina become blocked.
  • Severe non-proliferative retinopathy has progressed farther, with a substantial blockage in several blood vessels. These blockages prevent the retina from receiving the necessary blood supply. Without sufficient circulation of blood, the retina grows new blood vessels.
  • Proliferative retinopathy occurs because the new blood vessels that are grown to feed the retina are weak and fragile. These new vessels sit near the vitreous gel at the center of the eye. Being that they do not grow normally, these blood vessels may leak blood into the eye, causing severe vision loss. Proliferative retinopathy can cause permanent blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy can progress through these stages slowly or quickly. The speed of progression depends on several factors, including the patient’s blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. If you have diabetes, you must learn to manage your blood sugar with healthy lifestyle habits and prescribed medications, if necessary. You should also see an ophthalmologist with experience diagnosing and treating diabetic retinopathy. Visits should be scheduled yearly, or more often if the doctor advises.

VitreoRetinal Surgery is proud to provide care to patients in need of a retinal specialist in Minnesota. Call (800) VRS-2500 to schedule a visit at a location near you.

Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy Minneapolis, MN

Why Routine Eye Care is Essential for Diabetics

Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy Minneapolis, MNDiabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic conditions to affect Americans. In light of this diagnosis, healthcare providers are now well aware of the need for cooperation among various specialties. The unsettled nature of blood sugar in diabetic patients present a risk for some secondary conditions, from neuropathy to vision loss. Fortunately, when it comes to eye health, early and consistent management of both diabetes and ocular integrity can help doctors preserve patients’ vision.

The Retina, the Macula, and Diabetes

One of the most common eye diseases to occur secondary to diabetes is retinopathy. Referred to as diabetic retinopathy, this condition first occurs in a non-proliferative manner. Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the early indication that damage has occurred in the blood vessels of the retina. There are typically no symptoms that manifest during this early stage of diabetic eye disease. However, it is at this stage when the best chance of vision preservation exists. What this means for the diabetic patient is that routine, comprehensive eye exams need to be obtained as recommended by either an eye doctor or a general health practitioner.

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy is characterized by microscopic bulges in the blood vessels that feed the retina. While the weakening of these vessels does not pose an immediate threat to vision, there is an associated risk because untreated, the weakness and damage in retinal blood vessels will worsen. This may result in poor blood flow or the leakage of blood and fluid into the tissue surrounding the retina. This is referred to as macular edema.

Macular edema is swelling in the macula around the retina. Because macular edema coincides with micro-aneurysms or bleeding of the retinal blood vessels, symptoms may occur and should indicate a need for prompt eye care. If you notice wavy or blurry central vision, schedule a consultation and examination at Vitreo Retinal Surgery. A minor laser procedure can stop current bleeding, and a treatment plan developed to lower the risk of future bleeds.

Diabetic eye care is an important matter of longevity and quality of living. Contact us at (800) VRS-2500 to learn more about our services.

Why Diabetic Eye Care Must be Proactive | VitreoRetinal Surgery, PA | MN

Why Diabetic Eye Care Must be Proactive

Why Diabetic Eye Care Must be Proactive | VitreoRetinal Surgery, PA | MNOften, we have the tendency to schedule medical care when we think something may be wrong. We have largely gotten out of the habit of seeing our doctor every year for a good old-fashioned checkup. Likewise, this is how a large majority of people manage eye health. Eye care is something we primarily consider for vision correction. However, there is much more to taking good care of your eyes, especially if you have diabetes.

First, there is an alarming estimate that millions of people in our country have diabetes mellitus or Type 2 diabetes, and they do not know it. This goes back to the value of the general physical on an annual basis. Current diagnoses are upwards of 30 million, with more people diagnosed each year. If diabetes is in your family history, it is a good idea to see your doctor for glucose testing. Doing so protects your general health and can also protect your eyes.

Diabetes is not just Common; it is a Leading Cause of Blindness

There are several eye diseases that are associated with diabetes. The concern with them is that symptoms may not become obvious until irreparable damage has occurred. If you frequently have blurry vision, you may be receiving a warning sign that you have diabetes. The earlier that diabetes management can be implemented, the better you and your ophthalmologist can monitor eye health, watching for clues to:

  • Glaucoma, a condition in which pressure builds inside the eye. Increased pressure can damage the optic nerve and cause vision loss.
  • Diabetic retinopathy involves the restriction of the blood vessels that nourish the retina.
  • Cataracts can severely impede vision, and people with diabetes have a 60% higher risk for clouded lenses than individuals with healthy blood glucose levels. If vision becomes low, cataracts can be removed and the lens replaced with an appropriate intraocular lens.

Do you need care now?

Diabetic eye care is slightly more involved than the norm and requires patients to know when they need to see their ophthalmologist sooner rather than later, and by that we mean within a day or two. Symptoms that require prompt medical attention include:

  • Flashes of light either in your field of vision or when you blink.
  • Sudden changes in vision, including blurriness or double-vision.
  • Eye pain.
  • Black spots in your field of vision.

We care about your eye health. Vitreo Retinal Surgery, PA has offices across Minnesota to serve you. Call (800) VRS-2500.

Diabetes and Protecting your Eye Health

Diabetes and Protecting your Eye HealthMost diabetic patients understand that the disease can put their vision at risk. That’s because, over time, high blood sugar can damage retinal blood vessels, causing a variety of diseases and complications. That’s why it’s vitally important for diabetics to have regular eye exams so that treatment to stabilize vision can begin early when there is the best chance of providing long-term help. Call for your appointment today: 800-VRS-2500.

Regular eye exams can help diabetics begin treatments for such problems as:

Macular Edema

A common cause of central vision loss, it causes swelling in the central retina.

When identified by your doctor, diabetic macular edema (DME) can be treated

Laser therapy can be used to decrease retina swelling and reduce the risk of future vision loss. Other treatment options include:

  • Eye injections
  • Steroids
  • Surgical treatment

DME is the main cause of vision loss associated with diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetics should be aware of non-proliferative and proliferative retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy causes damage to the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye.

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) can cause

  • Retinal hemorrhages
  • “Cotton wool” spots from poor blood flow

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) can cause

  • Damage to the retinal blood vessels

This leads to a secretion that causes abnormal blood vessel growth and can threaten vision.

  • Neovascular glaucoma

This occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow and can lead to elevated eye pressure, pain, redness and vision loss.

Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy can be managed

Managing your diabetes is always the first step toward preserving vision. Regular eye examinations are also crucial because they can detect changes caused by diabetic retinopathy that may not be noticed by patients.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy can be treated

Laser treatment is one of the most effective procedures for retinopathy and has saved the vision of millions of patients. An alternate treatment is:

  • Injections

These can be beneficial for many patients when it to comes to managing the effects of PDR, particularly for those with problems that put them in the category of high risk for developing the disease.