What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye disease associated with diabetes affecting more than 500,000 Canadians a year. Often going unnoticed and developing over time, diabetic retinopathy can lead to vision changes and blindness.
Who’s Most at Risk?
Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes patients are at a higher risk. According to the Mayo Clinic, the longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to develop eye complications.
Poor control of blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are also contributing factors to the deterioration of vision health.
What Are The Three Main Types of Diabetic Retinopathy?
Macular Oedema: A common form of vision loss among those with diabetes. When left untreated, Macular Oedema can lead to vision loss and blindness.
Non-Proliferative Retinopathy: This is the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. Symptoms are often mild to non-existent. Tiny bulges in the blood vessels called microaneurysms also have the potential of leaking fluid into the retina.
Proliferative Retinopathy: The advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy. The blood vessels in the retina begin to disappear and become replaced by weaker more fragile vessels. As a result, this can lead to sudden vision loss.
What Are The Symptoms?
As the condition of the eye disease progresses, the following symptoms become evident:
- Blurred vision
- Increase spots or floaters in your vision
- Fluctuating vision
- Loss of vision
- Blank or dark areas in your field of vision
- Poor night vision
What Are The Causes?
When there’s too much glucose (sugar) in the blood, tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina can become blocked resulting in the cutting off of blood supply. The eye will then attempt to regrow new vessels which are often underdeveloped and prone to leaking.
Are There Any Complications?
Common complications associated with diabetic retinopathy are:
Vitreous hemorrhage: when blood vessels potentially bleed into the clear gel area that fills the center of the eye. If bleeding is minor, the results are a few dark spots or floaters. The blood often clears from the eye within a couple of weeks or months. Unless there is retinal damage, vision should return to normal.
In severe cases, vision can become blocked due to blood filling in the vitreous cavity.
Retinal detachment: when part of or all of the retina detaches from the back of the eye.
Glaucoma: increased pressure within the eye causing gradual vision loss.
Blindness: if left untreated, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma or both can result in complete vision loss.
Are There Any Preemptive Measures I Can Take?
Since the early stages of diabetic retinopathy are difficult to prevent, regular eye exams at your local Kelowna optometrist and monitoring of blood sugar and pressure are often recommended.
For those with diabetes, it’s important to take note of your diet and incorporate at least an hour of exercise (like walking) into your daily routine. Always remember to take your medication or insulin as directed by your doctor. Be sure to monitor your blood sugar levels and if needed, check and record your levels several times daily or as instructed by your doctor.
If you notice any irregularities with your vision, contact Orchard Park Optometry to set up an appointment to meet with Dr. Mat Broschak. He is available to discuss and answer any questions you may have regarding diabetic retinopathy.
To book an appointment call (250) 762-2090 or contact us online.