The Retina is an important part of the eye that interprets the light into an electrochemical signal which is then converted into the images in the brain that we see. When a person develops diabetes at an uncontrollable level it can damage the blood vessels that supply blood to the retina and affect the eyes. This Diabetic condition that affects the eyes is known as Diabetic Retinopathy. High blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels throughout the body, which affects the retina also. Severe condition of Diabetic Retinopathy can also lead to blindness.

Usually, Diabetic Retinopathy doesn’t show the symptoms early. Symptoms can be noticed in the advanced stages. It includes

  • Blurred vision
  • Not seeing the colours properly
  • Eye Floaters
  • Poor Night vision
  • Empty and patchy areas in the vision
  • Fluctuating Vision

Diabetic Retinopathy can lead to blindness if it is untreated or undiagnosed. Patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes should regularly get eye examination for early detection and treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy. A regular eye examination can minimize the risk of Diabetic Retinopathy.

As per the report of the World Health Organisation (WHO) the chances of having complications of Diabetic Retinopathy in diabetes patients are increasing dramatically in recent times. It is estimated there are around 5% of all blindness cases worldwide are caused by Diabetic Retinopathy. Patients with Diabetic Retinopathy are expected to reach about 592 million by the year 2035.

Effects of Diabetic Retinopathy– Diabetic Retinopathy can lead to serious vision problems such as-

1. Retinal Detachment- Diabetic Retinopathy damages the blood vessels. These damaged blood vessels pull the retina back from the supporting tissue of the back of the eye. It can cause floaters or flashes of light in the vision and even blindness also.

2. Vitreous hemorrhage– In this situation, the new blood vessels start to bleed into the vitreous fluid. In case the bleeding is minor, only a few floaters might be seen in the vision. In a more severe case of vitreous hemorrhage, blood fills the vitreous cavity and the vision is completely blocked. However, it is a temporary blockage and it takes a few weeks or months for the blood to be cleared from the vision and back to its original clear vision.

3. Glaucoma– Diabetic Retinopathy stimulates the new blood vessels to grow in the front part of the eye. These new blood vessels interfere with the normal fluid flow which causes the build-up of eye pressure. This pressure can damage the optic nerve that works for carrying the images from the eye to the brain. A damaged optic nerve can cause permanent blindness.

4. Blindness– Retinal detachment, Glaucoma, Vitreous hemorrhage, macular edema, or any other complications if not treated properly can cause blindness also.

Here are some of the precautions by which you can prevent Diabetic Retinopathy-

1. Maintaining the blood sugar-Maintaining the blood sugar at an optimal level can really help you prevent Diabetic Retinopathy. Follow a daily healthy routine which includes healthy eating and regular exercise like moderate aerobic activity like walking. Insulin medicines can also help manage diabetes.

2. Maintain the optimal level of blood pressure and cholesterol– Regular exercise and eating healthy meals can help maintain the optimal level of blood pressure and cholesterol. It can help prevent Diabetic Retinopathy also.

3. Quit Smoking or any other type of tobacco– Regular smoking and other types of tobacco can increase the chances of diabetic retinopathy. Quitting smoking can decrease the chances of various diabetic complications and Diabetic retinopathy also.

4. Regular screening of your eyes-Regular screening of the eyes can help detect the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy in the early stages.

Treatments for Diabetic Retinopathy-

1. Laser treatments- Laser treatment includes the usage of targeted lasers to shrink the blood vessels in the eye to seal or slow down the build-up of fluid in the eye. The treatment involves the doctor using the special lens to aim a strong beam of light into the eye. Numbing medicine is placed in the eye in this procedure for treating diabetic retinopathy.

Blurry vision or small spots may be experienced in the first few weeks after the procedure. However, with many benefits, there are some risks also involved with laser treatment such as loss in color vision, peripheral vision.

2. Injections- Eye injections with special medicines can also reduce the leakage of blood from the blood vessels in the eye and treat diabetic retinopathy. This procedure starts with numbing the eye with the numbing medicine before initiating the eye surgery. In the next step, the eye is cleaned to prevent infections. Then the medicines like corticosteroids are placed in the eye with the help of a tiny needle.

3. Eye Surgery-Eye surgery includes removing some of the vitreous from the eye as well as repairing the bleeding inside the retina for treating Diabetic Retinopathy. After the removal of the cloudy vitreous a clear liquid or gas is inserted in its place, over time the body will observe this liquid or gas, and a new vitreous is created. After this surgery in order to make sure the bubble hold in the right place, the person needs to hold his head in a specific position for some days or weeks.

The surgeon will also recommend the person with the vitrectomy wear an eye patch for some time also.

Conclusion- The number of people with diabetes has increased rapidly in recent times. High blood sugar can cause Diabetic Retinopathy which can also lead to blindness. Unhealthy lifestyles, stress, etc. can be the reason behind the prevalence of Diabetes in people. Detailed eye examinations and early treatments can prevent the complications of advanced stages of Diabetic Retinopathy. Moreover, following a healthy lifestyle, maintaining normal blood glucose, stable blood pressure and low cholesterol can prevent Diabetic Retinopathy.