An Introduction to Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy pic

Diabetic Retinopathy
Image: retinatucson.com

Since 1974, Retina Associates has provided specialized care for patients in Tucson and southern Arizona. Dr. Cameron Javid and the team at Retina Associates have welcomed numerous individuals with diabetic retinopathy, one of the most common conditions that the practice treats.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when an excess of sugar in the blood causes damage to the blood vessels in the retina. In the early stage of the disease, known as background or nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR), these damaged blood vessels may begin to leak into the retinal tissue.

NPDR is often mild and typically asymptomatic, though it may lead to the closing of capillaries in the retina and a subsequent blurring of vision. Patients may also experience a swelling of the macula, a small region at the center of the retina that is responsible for central and precise vision. Swelling in this region stands out as the most frequent cause of vision loss in patients with diabetes.

Some patients with diabetic retinopathy develop the proliferative form of the disease, which manifests with retinal blood vessels closing and impeding blood flow. Although the retina does then respond by creating new blood vessels, these vessels are structurally abnormal and do not allow for sufficient blood flow.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) can lead to more severe loss of vision as compared to NPDR. Patients can develop a retinal detachment or a neovascular glaucoma, the latter of which occurs when new blood vessels grow in the iris and block the flow of fluid from the eye. As a result, pressure builds up in the eye and leads to damage of the optic nerve.

Patients with PDR are also at risk of vitreous hemorrhage, or the leaking of blood into the vitreous gel located in the central portion of the eye. This leakage blocks light rays from reaching the retina and causes varying degrees of vision loss. Vision often returns when the leakage clears, though the loss may be permanent if macular damage is present. Therefore, it’s extremely important for all diabetics to obtain regular exams of their retina.

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