Diabetic Retinopathy: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetes complication that can develop in patients. Check out the symptoms, causes and treatment of this condition. 

Navya Kharbanda
Written by: Navya KharbandaPublished at: Aug 30, 2021Updated at: Aug 30, 2021
Diabetic Retinopathy: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Diabetes affects our body's ability to convert glucose into energy and it affects the insulin production in the body. In some cases, the body also develops resistance against the insulin hormone. Diabetes results in high blood sugar levels. It sounds like a minor in convenience but it can have a major impact on your body. Patients suffering from diabetes tend to lose weight and face constant fatigue. They might experience various macro vascular complications, and become more prone to strokes and blood pressure. 

Not only this, long term diabetes can also cause serious damage to other organs like pancreas and kidney. Complications in eyes due to prolonged high blood sugar is termed as diabetic retinopathy. In this disease, the blood vessels that supply blood to retina are damaged. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr Parul Sharma, Director - Ophthalmology, Max Hospital, Gurgaon, about the symptoms, causes and treatment of diabetic retinopathy. 

Diabetic retinopathy types

If we talk about diabetic retinopathy which is one of the major cause of blindness all over the world, it can be classified into two types based on the damage in the nerves and their prolification: 

1. Early diabetic retinopathy

Image source: lifelinecell

It is also known as Non-Proliferative diabetic retinopathy. In this stage, there are early symptoms of DR but nerves are not completely damaged. It majorly increases the diameter of retinal vessels. It can eventually lead to swelling in the central part of retina. It can weaken the walls of blood vessels which can lead to leakage of fluid in retina

2. Advanced diabetic retinopathy

It is also known as Proliferative diabetic retinopathy. As the name suggests - our nerves proliferate into new vessels. In this stage the damage is massive, old blood vessels are destroyed and new abnormal vessels start to grow. These abnormal vessels are not potential enough to hold the fluids and it may leak into the vitreous fluid that is present inside the eyes. 

Also read: Understanding Diabetes: Know About The Types And Symptoms Of Diabetes

Diabetic retinopathy symptoms

Diabetic retinopathy can have very few or no symptoms in their initial stages. It can have very mild symptoms as well as if not taken care of it can also lead to complete blindness. You must pay more attention to your eyes when you have diabetes and you should immediately see the doctor if you notice any sort of haze or blur in your vision. Here are the main symptoms of diabetic retinopathy

1. Blurred vision 

Blurred vision can be a result of leaked fluids in the eye ball. These extra fluid change the viscosity inside the eyes, which might affect the refraction of light. In some cases, the pressure on the eyeballs increases which can disrupt the shape and placement of lens which can lead to distorted vision. 

2. Spots in vision 

It is a possibility that you might notice some spots in your vision or you might see colors more faded than usual. This happens due to leakage of blood cells in the clear eye fluid. This is an alarming stage and you should immediately get it checked with your doctor. 

3. Vision loss 

In later stages, that damage in the vessels can be fatal enough to cause complete vision loss. In early stages, the person might experience difficulty in reading and seeing clearly. 

Diabetic retinopathy causes 

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Image source: Online first-aid 

As we are aware that diabetic retinopathy is another complication caused due to prolonged high blood sugar levels. Other factors that might increase the risk of diabetic retinopathy include high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, history of diabetes, smoking habits and sometime pregnancy can also trigger this complication. You must keep a check on your blood sugar levels and keep it under control.

Diabetic retinopathy treatment

If we are able to detect and treat diabetic retinopathy in early stages, there is a possibility that doctors are able to treat it successfully provided that the patient takes care of himself and keeps his sugar levels under control. Certain ways of the treatment are discussed below: 

1. Photo coagulation

It is a laser technique and it basically helps to treat the leakage in blood vessels. It primarily helps in closing the ruptured vessels again so that there is no more leakage. It is a one time procedure which can help you get your vision back but it also has few risks attached to it. 

Also read: Take Care Of These 4 Early Warning Signs Of Diabetic Retinopathy

2. Vitrectomy

In this procedure, a slight incision is made on the eye draining the blood from viscous fluid. It is a surgical procedure which is performed under expert supervision after local anesthesia. It may also be done to remove the scar tissue from the eyes. 

3. Injections

Certain medications are given through a syringe directly in the eyes. These medications inhibit the growth of nerves and hinders any preexisting leakage inside the eyes. These injections can cause discomfort and pain in the eyes and also makes you more prone to infections and hence it is usually used along with photo coagulation or as per required by the patient. 

Diabetic retinopathy is a fatal complication in the eyes. Hence, you must take proper care of our health. We must try to prevent the disease in the first place. You must adopt a healthy lifestyle and get checked on regular basis if you already have diabetes. 

Read more articles on Diabetes 

Image credits: diabetesUK