What Is Diabetic Eye Disease?
Diabetes mellitus, commonly known as diabetes, is the leading cause of vision loss in adults aged 20–74 years. An estimated 30.3 million people have diabetes, and more than a third of those show signs of retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when diabetes damages the blood vessels in the retina. These weakened or damaged blood vessels cause swelling or fluid leakage in the back of the eye, which distorts your vision.
There are two types of diabetic retinopathy: nonproliferative and proliferative.
- Nonproliferative retinopathy refers to the early stages of the disease. In this early stage, weakened blood vessels leak fluid and distort sight.
- Proliferative retinopathy is the advanced stage of the disease. In advanced retinopathy, new blood vessels grow around the retina and in the vitreous humor (a clear substance inside the eye). These fragile blood vessels can burst and blur vision if left untreated. They may also scar or detach the retina.
Diabetic Retinopathy Symptoms
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:
- Loss of central vision, for example, when reading or driving
- Loss of the ability to see color
- Blurred or distorted vision
- Small spots (floaters)
In most cases, there are no symptoms of early diabetic retinopathy. Your sight may not be affected until the condition is severe.
Retinopathy develops over time, so an annual eye exam each year is important. If you have a more severe case of retinopathy, more frequent eye exams may be necessary. Call us to speak with one of our doctors if you show the symptoms of retinopathy listed above.
Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment
The best treatment for diabetic eye disease will depend on which part of the eye is affected. Depending on the specific issues with your retina, our doctors may recommend one of the following treatments:
- Focal laser treatment. This retinopathy treatment, also known as photocoagulation, uses targeted lasers to seal leaky blood vessels to reduce swelling in the eye. The procedure is painless and is done in our offices.
- Scatter laser treatment. This treatment, also known as panretinal photocoagulation, uses sophisticated imaging to shrink abnormal blood vessels using laser points around the retina. Scatter laser surgery can be performed in our Rockville, Damascus, or Washington, DC locations. Two or more sessions may be necessary.
- Intravitreal injections. Intravitreal injections can be used to treat diabetic retinopathy, as well as other retinal issues such as macular degeneration, macular edema, and retinal vein occlusion. During the procedure, the eye is numbed with anesthetic eye drops to minimize discomfort.
For diabetic retinopathy treatment in Washington, DC, our office is located in Van Ness Center at 4301 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 125. Contact us to schedule an appointment.
Maryland patients can schedule diabetic retinopathy treatment in Rockville or Damascus. Our Rockville location is at 11300 Rockville Pike, Suite 1202 and our Damascus location is at 26135 Ridge Rd. Contact us to schedule an appointment.
Preventing Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetes medication and healthy lifestyle habits can help reduce your risk of diabetes or manage the disease. Diet, exercise, healthy weight maintenance, and giving up smoking are all vital steps to control diabetes. Some steps to prevent diabetic retinopathy include controlling and monitoring your blood sugar (glucose levels), blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
It’s also important to have regular dilated eye examinations. Yearly eye examinations are the most effective thing you can do to prevent vision loss.