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Diabetic Retinopathy

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For people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, diseases of the eye are incredible likely to occur. The most common of these diseases is diabetic retinopathy, a condition that occurs as the blood flowing inside the retina changes. This could mean that flow is too much, sometimes not enough. There may be swelling in the blood vessel as well as completely new vessels being created on the outside of the retina. The specifics as to what kind of retinopathy is present is variable, but in general, doctors describe the condition as an abnormality or damage in the blood vessels at the back of the eye.

There are stages of retinopathy as well:

Mild | Moderate | Severe | Proliferative


In patients with diabetes, blood sugar levels are the cause of different medical conditions. In the case of retinopathy, when blood sugar is too high there is a damaging effect to the small blood vessels. The vessels will either leak or become blocked, obstructing proper blood flow. When high blood sugar blocks the vessels in the retina and stops flow, loss of vision is imminent. With the development of new blood vessels onto the retina, blood is likely to leak at the center of the eye, the cause for blurry vision.

A condition when direct vision is affected because of a leak in the macula (the part of the eye that straight vision occurs) is called macular edema. This is likely to occur as retinopathy enters its later stages.


In its earlier stages (nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy), retinopathy is not easily detected. Generally, the symptoms include blurry vision, spotting, slight loss of vision and distortion of colors. The earlier stage is known as nonproliferative because at this point, new blood vessels have not grown. This is the mild and moderate stage of retinopathy.

At a later stage (proliferative diabetic retinopathy) will have similar but more intensive symptoms. Vision may become significantly blurred as spotting will be bigger and more obstructive to vision. This is the point at which new blood vessels have started to grow in the retina. At this stage excess pressure is being put onto the eye, meaning the optic nerve (what transmits images from your eye to your brain) is being harmed.

Prevention & Treatments:

The best way to prevent retinopathy is to consistently keep your blood sugar controlled. As it is, diabetics have to make sure they are testing their blood daily. By making sure your diabetes is under control, you can alleviate the chances of developing a number of different conditions.

For patients who already have retinopathy, laser surgery is the top method used my ophthalmologists today. Laser surgery is used to shrink the new vessels causing retinopathy. Laser surgery will also stop leakage for macular edema, hopefully improving vision to a certain extent, but it is noted that people with macular dilemma hardly ever see an improvement in vision after laser surgery.

A vitrectomy is another procedure practiced for retinopathy. The procedure is used to clear blood from the eye caused by the new vessels. This is a quick outpatient surgery that is minimally invasive and can be done alongside laser treatment for those with severe retinopathy.

None of these treatment will cure diabetic retinopathy altogether, but they will help to either stop it from getting worse or slow the disease down. The procedures are effective in prevention but not used as a solution for the condition. The West Medical Ophthalmology staff is committed to proper prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all types of diabetic retinopathy, and we will help you every step of the way.

If you suffer from diabetes, and are looking to treat diabetic retinopathy, West Medical can help. To learn more, call West Medical at (855) 690-0565 for information about diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy. We’re happy to help!

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