Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in people between the age of 25 and 65. IMPORTANTLY much of this vision loss is preventable. Diabetes results in an inability to regulate the blood sugar or glucose. This high sugar in the blood has its most prominent effect on the blood vessels. Since there are blood vessels in every part of the body this disease affects every major organ including the kidneys, heart, skin, brain, GI tract, and of course, the eyes.
Diabetic Macular Edema
The high glucose damages the blood vessel wall. This leads to leakage of the fluid and fatty tissue from the blood vessel. The damaged blood vessels undergo further injury due to disrupted flow. Ultimately, the damage leads to complete closure of the vessel(s) causing further tissue damage.
In the eye, that leakage leads to loss of vision due to the accumulation of fluid (edema) in the macula. This is the most common cause of vision loss in diabetes. When the vessels undergo complete closure, the eye tries to compensate by creating new (abnormal) blood vessels. These new blood vessels do not work properly and lead to bleeding and scarring. This is the most advanced form of retinopathy and can lead to retinal detachment and blindness. All of these complications can be prevented by careful examination and intervention when necessary.
Treatment | Diabetic Retinopathy
Swelling in the macula is treated with injections of medication to promote reduction of the fluid. Laser surgery can be used to reduce/arrest the development of the new blood vessels. For advanced cases with hemorrhage and retinal detachment are usually treated with Vitrectomy surgery. Many of these complications can be avoided or improved with sustained control of the blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Please be sure to ask you retina specialist which treatment option best fits your clinical needs.