How Common Is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, Retina Associates provides eye care services, treating conditions affecting the retina and vitreous at the back of the eye. Under the leadership of Dr. Cameron Javid, one of the conditions that Retina Associates treats is diabetic retinopathy.

People with diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. This occurs when high blood sugar levels affect blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. The blood vessels may swell and leak or close, stopping blood flow. Both of these events can rob a person of his or her vision.

Diabetic retinopathy is actually the number one cause of blindness among America’s working age population. At some point, one in every three people with diabetes will develop retinopathy. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that from 2010 to 2050, the number of Americans with the condition will almost double from 7.7 million to reach 14.6 million.

Diabetic retinopathy poses a particular risk to people’s vision, especially because it has no symptoms in its early stages. The symptoms that a person may notice when the disease progresses include blurry vision, spotty vision, loss of color vision, or loss of central vision. It is important for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes to take extra precautions to reduce their risk of developing the condition. These precautions may include monitoring blood sugar levels according to the doctor’s instructions, quitting smoking, eating healthy foods, exercising often, and scheduling a comprehensive dilated eye exam every year.

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.

A Brief Overview of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy pic

Diabetic Retinopathy
Image: retinatucson.com

Retina Associates in Tucson, Arizona, provides medical support to individuals who are dealing with disorders of the vitreous and retina, including diabetic retinopathy. The Retina Associates practice is comprised of doctors including Cameron Javid, MD, who have undergone extensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of retina and vitreous disease.

There are a variety of well-known symptoms related to diabetes, such as increased thirst and hunger. Diabetes can also lead to advanced diabetic complications, including diabetic retinopathy. As blood vessels near the back of the eyes begin to weaken, individuals can experience a number of disruptive symptoms. Early symptoms may go unnoticed or cause minor vision problems, but left unchecked, diabetic retinopathy can result in symptoms as serious as blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy can be see in individuals living with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Considering the severity of late stage retinopathy, any person living with diabetes should receive annual, or even bi-annual, eye exams. The likelihood of developing the disease increases the longer a person suffers from diabetes and can directly correlate with unhealthy blood sugar levels. The better a person manages their diabetes, the lower their chances of developing diabetic retinopathy.

Some of the earliest symptoms of diabetic retinopathy involve spots and other vague shapes floating across a person’s field of vision, known as floaters. Additional vision problems include blurriness, issues perceiving colors, sudden drops in vision quality, and unexplained areas of darkness. Any person with diabetes experiencing these or similar symptoms should immediately contact their physician or a medical professional specializing in eye care and then be referred to a retina specialist.

Conditions of the Eye – Diabetic Retinopathy

Retina Associates pic

Retina Associates
Image: retinatucson.com

Experts in ophthalmology, like Dr. Cameron Javid, treat patients at Retina Associates, a private medical practice based in Tucson, Arizona. Retina Associates specialists see patients with a wide range of conditions, including macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetes, a disease caused by the body’s inability to metabolize sugar, can give rise to a variety of symptoms, especially if patients with diabetes fail to control their blood sugar levels. For instance, diabetes can gradually harm blood vessels, including those in the retina. The resulting swelling can interfere with vision and even cause blindness.

This condition, called diabetic retinopathy, begins with few or no symptoms. Over time, however, patients begin to experience sight problems like blurring central vision and seeing spots However, if patients with diabetic retinopathy work with their doctors to control their blood sugar levels, and undergo retinal treatment, their sight should stabilize and may even improve.

Another way patients can improve their sight is to undergo laser surgery treatments that can address problematic leaking in the retinal blood vessels. In addition, injections of certain medications can reduce harmful retinal swelling and bleeding associated with diabetic retinopathy.
Furhermore, a microsurgery called vitrectomy can be performed by a retinal specialist which can successfully remove blood from the back of the eye often restoring vision.