Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that occurs as a complication of diabetes and affects the retina. Changes caused by diabetes damage the tiny blood vessels in the retina. This may cause blood vessels to leak or close off, thus cutting off the blood supply. In some cases, new blood vessels may develop in the retina. These changes affect a person’s vision. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can result in significant vision loss and even blindness.
Stages of diabetic retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy can be divided into two stages according to the changes in the eye’s fundus: early or nonproliferative and late or proliferative stage.
In early diabetic retinopathy, the first signs of retinal damage are bruising and widening of blood vessels (vasodilation). The tiny blood vessels in the eye can also leak and cause build-up of fluid. If the swelling is located in the centre portion or macula of the retina, the condition is called macular edema. Macular edema is the primary cause of vision loss in people with diabetes.
In late or proliferative diabetic retinopathy, new blood vessels start growing in the retina. These new blood vessels are fragile and can leak, causing blood to enter the clear substance that fills the vitreous body of the eye. Blood in the vitreous body disrupts vision. Along with new blood vessels, scar tissue is also formed, which can lead to retinal detachment and permanent loss of vision.
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy
You might have no symptoms and a normal visual acuity in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy.
As the disease progresses, the following symptoms may occur:
- • blurred vision;
- • formations floating in the field of vision that may disappear on their own;
- • fluctuating visual acuity;
- • dark or empty spots in the field of vision;
- • trouble with seeing in the dark;
- • decrease in colour vision.
Usually, the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy involve both eyes at the same time.
There is no treatment for diabetic retinopathy but there are different methods to inhibit the progression of the disease.
The most effective method for controlling diabetic retinopathy is laser therapy, which aims to reduce the permeability of blood vessels and destroy new blood vessels. Laser treatment can slow down the deterioration of vision but cannot improve it. In addition to laser treatment, intraocular injections are given as needed to reduce swelling, and surgeries are performed to clean the fundus.
Proper adherence to diabetes management requirements is essential for preventing vision loss associated with diabetic retinopathy. Early detection of changes in the fundus makes it possible to start early treatment and prevent vision loss.