Nearly one-third of diabetics contract a blinding eye disease, Proliferative diabetic retinopathy. According to the eye institute, continuous high blood sugar leads to this disease, but ophthalmologists say they are finding diabetics skipping eye appointments, which impacts diagnosing and treating the disease.
Doctors say 25 percent of diabetics have some form of diabetic retinopathy, and only 10 percent have no retinopathy during their lifetime. It is the more typical cause of blindness in people between the ages of 20 and 65 years, and it usually develops very slowly.
How The Disease Produces Blindness
The retina is the most important part of the eye for vision. This is where the light turns into electrical impulses so that the images are interpreted by the brain. Diabetes can lead to a malfunction of the retina in three main ways:
1. Macular edema: abnormal accumulation of fluid in the thin layers of the retina. The macula is the part of the eye with the greatest sensitivity of the retina. The fluid comes from the blood vessels whose walls have inadequate function due to diabetes.
2. Vitreous hemorrhage: In more advanced stages of retinopathy new blood vessels are formed within the eye that break easily. When they break, they release blood inside the eye, which prevents the passage of light to the retina.
3. Retinal detachment: In advanced stages of the disease, the retina can be detached, mainly by traction exerted by the hemorrhaging and the new blood vessels forming.
What Are The Factors That Increase The Risk Of Developing Diabetic Retinopathy?
Some of the factors include:
⦁ Sugar levels: High levels of glucose greatly increase the risk of retinopathy starting or advancing.
⦁ Duration of Diabetes: Blindness is associated with the duration of diabetes. In Type I diabetes, experts say 12 percent get the disease within 30 years of duration
⦁ Hypertension: high blood pressure increases the risk of retinopathy.
What Are The Common Symptoms Of This Disease?
For a long time the course of this disease is asymptomatic. Only in the advanced stage, the vision is severely limited. Over time, patients will experience decreased vision, especially decreased night vision. However, doctors point out, symptoms do not typically occur until the advanced stages of the disease, thus it’s crucial to attend regular ophthalmology appointments.
Can Doctors Prevent The Disease?
The control of risk factors is very important. The main one is hyperglycemia. Blood glucose levels must be controlled, as this factor may delay the onset and progress of proliferative diabetic retinopathy. For this reason, it is very important that diabetic patients go to their exams for periodic updates with an endocrinologist and ophthalmologist.
What Are The Treatment Protocols?
The disease requires immediate and continuous treatment in time to avoid the most serious and irreversible consequences of this disease, which can lead to blindness, but treatment also depends upon the stage of the disease. In early stages, a laser can be used. In more advanced stages, surgery is required to solve the hemorrhaging or retinal detachments.
In most cases, treatment will focus on halting the progression of the disease, but doctors point out, for any adequate, successful control, continuous visits to an ophthalmologist is required.