Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of irreversible blindness in working-age Americans. As many people with type 1 diabetes suffer blindness as those with the more common type 2 disease. Diabetic retinopathy occurs in more than half of the people diabetic retinopathy pdf 2016 develop diabetes.
It is possible to have diabetic retinopathy for a long time without noticing symptoms until substantial damage has occurred. Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy may occur in one or both eyes. Elevated sugar levels from diabetes can damage the small blood vessels that nourish the retina and may, in some cases, block them completely.
New vessels may bleed into the middle of the eye, cause scar tissue formation, pull on the retina, cause retinal detachment, or may cause high pressure and pain if the blood vessels grow on the iris, clogging the drainage system of the eye—all of this can cause vision loss. Anyone who has diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Disease duration: the longer someone has diabetes, the greater the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.
3 to 6 times greater risk of macular edema. Other medications have had rare reports of macular edema.
Most people do not have eye side effects. Check with your physician for more information about prescription medications that could put you at risk. The best way to diagnose diabetic retinopathy is a dilated eye exam.
OCT of a patient with bilateral proliferative diabetic retinopathy with diabetic macular edema in the left eye. ASRS Retina Image Bank, May 2016. Olivia Rainey, Retina Specialists of Michigan.
Regular dilated eye exams by an ophthalmologist are important, especially for those who are at a higher risk for diabetic retinopathy or diabetes. If you are over age 50, an exam every 1 to 2 years is a good idea so the physician can look for signs of diabetes or diabetic retinopathy before any vision loss has occurred. The physician may take fundus photographs of the back of the eye to help detect and document diabetic retinopathy. These photos make it easier for the physician to monitor the disease on follow-up visits to determine if it is worsening.
After dilating the pupils, the physician will inject a dye into the patient’s arm. As the dye circulates, the physician takes pictures of the retina to accurately detect blood vessels that are closed, damaged, or leaking fluid.
The pictures are black and white to help the doctor detect these changes more easily, but the process is not the same as having an x-ray. Prior to examination, ask your physician to discuss the risks and benefits of obtaining these images.