Diabetic Retinopathy is a disease which usually affects both eyes and is caused by diabetes. It is sometimes referred to as DR. Diabetes Mellitus is characterized by high blood sugar levels and these high sugar levels can affect the blood vessels in the retina. The retina which is the part of the eye that captures light and sends information to the brain is very delicate and when damaged can cause partial or complete loss of sight.
Common DR Symptoms may include but are not limited to seeing floaters or flashes, having blurred vision and even some loss of vision. Some people say they feel as if they are looking through a spider web or even a piece of cloth. Depending on the severity of the conditions treatment can range from doing nothing at all (other than trying to keep the blood sugar controlled) to surgery or laser treatments.
DR is caused by having long standing uncontrolled type 1 or type 2 Diabetes. When a person has DR the walls of the blood vessels weaken and leak blood. This leaking causes swelling and vision problems. If the condition is left untreated new blood vessels may be formed, leak and even cover the center of the retina. This can cause the retina to be completely blocked and blindness.
The longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your diabetes the more likely you are to develop DR. Other things that may cause or hasten the development of DR include having any sort of other eye problems, having eye surgery, having diabetes during puberty or pregnancy, having high blood pressure, having high cholesterol, having anemia, kidney problems or other health problems.
You may have the following symptoms if you have or are beginning to get DR. You may have blurred vision, fast and painless worsening of vision, seeing red or black wavy lines that appear as a “spider-web effect”, if you see light flashes or red, black or gray floating spots.
If you have any of these symptoms you should see a healthcare provider as soon as possible. You should probably see an Ophthalmologist. These are Medical Doctors that specialize in the treatment of the eyes.
Your healthcare provider may recommend some testing to help verify DR. The doctor may order a Dilated Indirect Opthalmoscopy. This is a test that uses a magnifying lens to see your retina and other parts of your eye. Eye drops that dilate your pupil are dropped into the eyes so the physician can get a clear a good view.
The healthcare provider may order a Florescein angiography. In this test a dye called Flourescein is placed in the eye, and then a picture is taken with a special camera.
One other test that your doctor may order to verify DR is the Stereo Fundis. This test which is also known as fundis photography is often used to check for DR or to see if it is getting worse.
Depending on the stage of your DR will determine the treatment. You may have a mild case that needs to be just watched and no treatment. You may have a more severe case that needs immediate treatment. For severe DR there are some types of surgery that may help slow down the progress and prevent blindness. Laser surgery can be used to shrink the blood vessels and seal the areas that have leaks.
A surgery called vitrectomy may be done if there is bleeding into the vitreous and it does not clear. The vitreous is a gel like material that fills the inside of the eye.
There are many preventive measures you can take to keep from getting DR. First and foremost you should do everything possible to keep your blood sugar under control. Follow a good healthy diet that is high in vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains. Take your medicine if you are on any, and be sure to follow any special dietary or lifestyle changes that your healthcare provider recommends.
You should eat a good healthy diet, exercise, and keep your blood pressure under control also. Blood cholesterol levels have recently become a rather controversial subject but it would probably be a good idea to keep these under acceptable levels just for other health reasons which may help you control the blood glucose levels.
You should have regular eye checks. Most people have their eyes checked every 3-5 years, however a person with diabetes or any symptoms should probably have their eyes checked more often, probably annually or any times symptoms worsen.
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, have your eyes checked as early in the pregnancy as possible or even before pregnancy if possible.
Contact the following groups for more information or any * American Association of Diabetes Educators American Association of Diabetes Educators 100 West Monroe Street, Suite 400 Chicago, IL 60603-1901 Phone: 1-800-338-3633 Web Address: http://www.aadenet.org * American Diabetes Association 1701 North Beauregard Street Alexandria, VA 22311 Phone: 1-800-342-2383 Web Address: http://www.diabetes.org * National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse 1 Information Way Bethesda, MD 20892-3560 Phone: 1-800-860-8747 Web Address: www.diabetes.niddk.nih.gov
Annually the American Diabetes Association has a fundraiser bicycle ride called the “Tour De Cure” I often ride in this event which raises money to help with research to combat diabetes. Be sure to check out my website for details on helping me help the ADA to find a cure.
Nothing in this article should be considered medical advice, it is provided for informational purposes only. If you are ill or injured see your primary caregiver ASAP.
Jerry Goodwin has been certified as a Medical Technologist since 1977. He is also certified as a Personal Trainer, Cardiovascular Trainer and Medical exer-therapist. He is a Veteran of the US Navy having served during the Viet Nam era. Jerry also served in the Army National Guard in Ohio, Texas, Kansas and Georgia as a field medic with Infantry, Armored Cavalry, Artillery and Mechanized Infantry Units. He has earned several medals including the Army Commendation Medal. Jerry is the editor of Body Mind and Goals Ezine and the owner of BMG Services Fitness and Nutrition at http://www.bmgfitness.com