What does the term Diabetic Retinopathy mean?

Sat Apr 09 2022


Diabetes is a chronic disease caused by the increased levels of sugar in the blood due to the inability of the pancreas to produce enough insulin. This disease comes with a lot of complications. Diabetic retinopathy is one such complication of diabetes that occurs when the blood vessels on the back of the eye are damaged from diabetes. 

This article will briefly discuss diabetic retinopathy, its causes, symptoms, and treatment in brief. 

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy, in simple terms, can be described as a diabetes complication that affects the eyes. High levels of blood sugars can damage the retina’s blood vessels, which is a light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. Diabetic retinopathy has a high chance of going unnoticed at first as it may start with no symptoms or mild vision problems. However, if ignored for long, it may eventually lead to blindness. 

Causes of Diabetic Retinopathy

When talking about the causes of diabetic retinopathy, the primary and underlying cause is diabetes. As already discussed above, the exceptionally high blood sugar levels that occur in diabetes cause diabetic retinopathy in many diabetic patients. As the sugar level in the blood rises, there may be blockage of tiny blood vessels that supply the eye’s retina. This causes the blood supply to the retina to cut off. As a result, the eye starts to grow new abnormal blood vessels and causes blood to leak. These vessels cause damage to the retinal and lead to the complete retinal detachment that in turn leads to diabetic retinopathy. 

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

The commonly observed signs and symptoms of diabetic retinopathy are as follows:

  • Cloudy or blurry vision
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Impaired colour vision
  • Impaired night vision
  • Dark or empty spots in the middle of the visual field
  • Eye floaters or transparent spots in the visual field
  • Sudden and total loss of vision
  • Patches or streaks that block the vision

What are the Four Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy progresses in four stages. The four stages are classified as mild nonproliferative, moderate nonproliferative, severe nonproliferative, and proliferative. The mild nonproliferative stage features a balloon-like swelling in the retinal blood vessels. The moderate nonproliferative stage is identified by a blockage in the retinal blood vessels. The severe nonproliferative stage or third stage of the disease begins with more blocked blood vessels that ultimately hamper the blood supply to the retina. In the final stage or the proliferative stage, new blood vessels grow in the retina, but as they are weak and abnormal, they leak blood, causing hemorrhage and retinal detachment. 

How long does it take to go blind from Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a serious condition as it may severely hamper your vision and lead to blindness. However, the progression of the condition is relatively slow, and it may take several years before you lose your vision completely. This is why it becomes critical to identify and treat the disease in its early stages. 

Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy

The treatment of diabetic retinopathy will mostly depend on the severity of the condition. There are three main treatment options available—LASER, injections, and eye surgery.

  1. LASER- this procedure will shrink the blood vessels and seal the leak to stop the hemorrhage. Doctors may advise more than one session for complete treatment.
  2. Injections- injections of anti-VEGF drugs and corticosteroids are administered to reduce swelling and to seal the leaking blood vessels.
  3. Eye surgery- a procedure called vitrectomy is performed to remove the bloody vitreous membrane from the eye and stop the progression of diabetic retinopathy. 

Why CFS?

With their expert team of doctors, Centre for Sight (CFS) can help you diagnose and treat conditions like diabetic retinopathy. You are promised proper preoperative and post-operative guidance along with modern treatment techniques that will benefit you in the best way possible.

Article: What does the term Diabetic Retinopathy mean?
Author: CFS Editorial Team  |   Apr 09 2022 | UPDATED 02:00 IST

*The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Centre for Sight.

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