What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Your retina is located at the back of your eye. As light travels through your eye, it focuses on this area. Your optic nerve then translates light into electrical impulses, and when your brain receives these signals, it registers them as an image. If you have diabetic retinopathy, swollen blood vessels release blood and fluid into your eye. These fluids block the path of light, and they may cause swelling of the retina, impairing its function. If you have a long period of untreated high blood sugar, you may be at a higher risk for diabetic retinopathy.
In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, you may not have any noticeable symptoms. For this reason, if you suffer from diabetes, it is important to receive a complete eye exam at least once a year. In the more advanced stages, symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Dark spots in the center of your visual field
- Trouble with night vision
- Problems distinguishing colors
At your routine exams, your doctor will conduct several tests to look for the signs of diabetic retinopathy. These tests may include:
- Optical coherence tomography (OCT): Using specialized imaging technology, your doctor will examine the thickness of your retina.
- Dilated Eye Exam: After dilating your pupils with eye drops, your doctor will use a special microscope to examine the back of your eye.
- Fluorescein angiography: While your eye is dilated, the doctor may inject a dye in your arm. As the dye moves to the blood vessels in your eye, the doctor will take pictures to reveal any areas where blood may be leaking.
- Macular Integrity Assessment (MAIA™): At EyeCare 20/20 Retina & Vision Center, we are proud to offer the only MAIA™ in Louisiana. This test uses advanced laser technology to measure the function of your retina and the stability of your macula.
- Tonometry: This test allows your doctor to measure the pressure inside your eye.
- Vision tests: Standard vision tests can uncover changes in your sight.
When you receive these tests on a routine basis, your doctor can diagnose the disease in its earliest stages and preserve more of your vision.
After a complete diagnosis, your doctor will determine the optimal treatment for your needs. In the earliest stages of the disease, you may not require any treatment, but you will need to be vigilant about keeping your blood sugar under control. In more advanced cases, we typically combine injection therapy (steroid and/or angiogenesis modulators) with laser therapy for the most comprehensive treatment. During laser treatment, your doctor will dilate your pupils and shine an advanced laser on the leaking blood vessels. The laser can often seal the leaks, and if you have abnormal blood vessels, it may cause them to disappear. In addition to a standard green laser, we also use an advanced MicroPulse™ laser. This tool causes no scarring and can actually spur regeneration of cells. Therefore, it does not damage any of the photoreceptors on the retina.
Protect Your Vision
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, don’t wait until your vision deteriorates to schedule an eye exam. Be proactive about your ocular health and contact EyeCare 20/20 Retina & Vision Center today.