Understanding Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic RetinopathyAside from combating diabetes itself, there are several complications and consequences of this disease that patients need to face. One of which is Diabetic Retinopathy. Diabetic Retinopathy is a condition wherein the retina is damaged as a result of the complications of diabetes mellitus. The retina is the tissue lining in the inner surface of the eye. This part is light sensitive and the images formed in this area trigger the nerve cells to send visual signals to the brain so that this information will be interpreted accordingly. Therefore, this part is very important in enabling a person’s sight, and to identify the objects around him or her. Diabetic retinopathy, which affects the retina, can lead to severe loss of vision or blindness among patients suffering from this disease. In this situation, blood vessels in the retina are damaged, which can cause these parts to swell and leak fluid. Diabetic patients must always monitor the condition of their vision as the progression of diabetic retinopathy may be slow and go unnoticed at first, when in reality this can actually get worse at later stages.

There are four stages of diabetic retinopathy: mild non proliferative retinopathy, moderate non proliferative retinopathy, severe non proliferative retinopathy and proliferative retinopathy. In the first stage, microaneurysms (which appear as small portions with balloon-like swelling in the tiny blood vessels of the retina) occur. At the second stage, blood vessels are blocked as is the nourishment flowing through them. As the disease progresses, more and more blood vessels get affected, depriving the retina of the nourishment it needs to function normally. At advanced stages of the disease, this results in signals being sent to the body for new blood vessels to grow in the retina. During proliferative retinopathy, fragile and abnormal blood vessels emerge in the retina and along the surface of the gel that fills the interior of the eye. The disruption of the blood vessels and leakage of blood from their weak and thinning walls are what causes severe vision impairment and blindness in diabetic patients.

Both type 1 and type 2 patients are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. It is for this reason that all diabetics are advised to have regular annual eye check up. They should contact their EENT (eye, ears, nose, and throat) doctors and have themselves undergo a comprehensive dilated eye exam. The earlier diabetic retinopathy is detected, the better chances of preventing or mitigating its progression. Pregnant women with diabetes should also be wary about the complications of this condition. According to clinical studies, the risk of blindness as a result of diabetic retinopathy can be reduced by a whopping 95% with early detection and medication. Patients should never wait for symptoms to occur before they contact their doctors. Normally, diabetic retinopathy at its early stages does not have any symptoms at all. As soon as the patient’s eyes start showing symptoms of this condition, it may be too late to prevent the progression of the disease as most of the symptoms manifest when diabetic retinopathy is already at its late stages.

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