WHAT IS Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is a disorder that harms the blood vessels within the retina. Affecting patients between the ages of 18 – 65 with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness. Uncontrollable sugar levels can make the retinal blood vessels swell, leak, or become blocked, which can lead to permanent damage and in some cases, blindness. This serious disease may become worse over time and in the earlier stages, symptoms are not always detectable.
If you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, it’s extremely important to attend yearly eye exams so our team of skilled, board-certified ophthalmologists at Ophthalmology Associates of the Valley can check your ocular health and determine if you have diabetic retinopathy. If you have diabetes, especially if you find it difficult to control your sugar levels, we highly recommend scheduling an appointment at either of our locations in Encino or West Hills.
What are the risk factors of diabetic retinopathy?
At Ophthalmology Associates of the Valley, there are a few factors we can monitor in our Los Angeles, CA patients that may put them at greater risk for diabetic retinopathy. A few disorders and conditions could contribute to your likelihood of developing this condition. If you have been diabetic for a while, have high insulin levels consistently, hypertension or high cholesterol, please tell your provider about these medical conditions as they are relevant to your optical health. In addition, pregnancy and tobacco use can also raise your risks of developing diabetic retinopathy.
What is Diabetic Macular Edema?
Diabetic macular edema (DME) is a condition that is directly caused by diabetic retinopathy, which leads to swelling in that part of the retina known as the macula. The macula is essential for the central vision field and is used for reading, recognition, and driving.
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WHAT ARE THE SIGNS?
Generally, at first, patients do not exhibit any noticeable signs during the first part of the disease. However, as the condition worsens, you may start to experience uncomfortable symptoms. These symptoms are often compared to retinal tears or detachments. Some of the primary indications of diabetic retinopathy include:
- Immediate changes in vision
- Developing flashes or floaters
- Fuzzy or distorted vision
- Loss in the ability to identify colors
- Reduced vision acuity
CAUSES OF DIABETIC RETINOPATHY
Diabetic retinopathy happens in Type 1 and Type 2 men and women who have a medical history of severe spikes in their blood sugar levels. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s extremely important to properly monitor and control your blood sugar levels and pursue professional medical care. When your sugar is too high, retinal blood vessels start to harden, expand, and create blockages, which can cause bleeding or leakage if not correctly managed. If left undiagnosed and untreated, diabetic retinopathy may produce macular edema (macular swelling) or macular ischemia (blood has difficulty reaching the macula).
How is Diabetic Retinopathy Diagnosed?
Diabetic retinopathy is generally diagnosed during an eye exam that may include the following:
- A visual acuity test with an eye chart
- A dilated eye exam with eye drops that allows the Ophthalmology Associates of the Valley team to examine the retina
- Fluorescein angiography, a diagnostic tool where images are taken of the retina to examine blood flow and other retinal structures
If our Los Angeles, CA ophthalmologists determine that you have diabetic retinopathy, a member of our team will work to assess the disease's stage and review your treatment options.
Our ophthalmologists at Ophthalmology Associates of the Valley are excited to provide a variety of innovative treatments for diabetic retinopathy, which we can tailor based on the severity of your disease. If you have leaking veins, we have panretinal photocoagulation, which cauterizes the vessel with a specialized laser and prevents additional leakage and deterioration. For patients with a more severe case, we offer anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor), which stops the growth of irregular blood vessels.
Early detection and the management of diabetes are essential to preventing harmful symptoms and restoring your eye health. However, if not treated, the negative side effects may become permanent, including vision loss. To reduce or stop the progression of diabetic retinopathy, it’s imperative to regulate your sugar and attend yearly eye exams.
Diabetic retinopathy FAQs
How do you prevent diabetic retinopathy?
There is no sure way to prevent diabetic retinopathy. However, you can help slow its progression by controlling your blood sugar levels and managing your other diabetes-related conditions. Additionally, regular comprehensive eye exams are essential for early detection so treatment can be started as soon as possible.
How do you control blood sugar levels?
OAV recommends meeting with your primary care physician to develop a safe and successful plan for managing blood sugar. This usually involves checking your blood sugar levels at home and making healthy dietary choices. You may also need to take diabetes medications or insulin as prescribed.
Why choose OAV for eye care?
Our professionals at OAV are dedicated to providing world-class eye care. We offer comprehensive eye exams, state-of-the-art diagnostic testing, and cutting-edge treatments for all types of vision problems. We also offer a variety of educational resources to help our patients better care for their vision if they have diabetic retinopathy.
TreatMENT IS POSSIBLE
Diabetic retinopathy is a disease that can severely impact patients who have been diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Maintaining your blood sugar and scheduling yearly exams are imperative to preventing permenant damage and vision loss caused by the condition. At Ophthalmology Associates of the Valley in San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, CA, we use innovative procedures, technologies, and techniques to help treat patients with diabetic retinopathy. Please contact one of our offices in Encino or West Hills to schedule your yearly eye exam and improve your ocular health.