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Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic RetinopathyDiabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in American adults. At Eye Health Vision Centers, we are experienced and skilled in treating this all too common disease. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by changes in the blood vessels in the back area of the eye called the retina. In some cases of diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels will swell and leak fluid. In other cases, abnormal blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina.

With diabetic retinopathy, symptoms and changes in vision are not immediately apparent. Over time, diabetic retinopathy will decrease vision, usually affecting both eyes. Diabetic retinopathy occurs in four stages, which are:

  1. Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy. The earliest stage in diabetic retinopathy, this is when microaneurysms occur. Microaneurysms are the small areas of balloon-like swelling in the retina's tiny blood vessels.
  2. Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy. As the disease progresses, the blood vessels that nourish the retina start to become blocked off.
  3. Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy. Blood vessels become even more blocked off, depriving several areas of the retina of their blood supply. These areas of the retina send signals to the body to grow new blood vessels in order to nourish the retina.
  4. Proliferative Retinopathy. This is the most advanced of diabetic retinopathy. At this stage, the retina is sending signals to body triggering the growth of new, fragile and unstable blood vessels. They start to grow along the retina and along the surface of the vitreous gel that fills the inside of the eye. The blood vessels themselves do not cause vision loss, but the leaking fluid clouds the vitreous gel and obscures vision. This causes severe vision loss and even blindness.

View Video


Symptoms and Detection

This disease often shows no signs or symptoms of its presence in the early stages. It is important to not wait for the symptoms, but to take a more proactive approach. Having comprehensive dilated exams once a year will ensure that this disease is caught and controlled early on, keeping vision loss at a minimum.

Blurred vision is the most common symptom of the later stages of diabetic retinopathy. This is caused when the macula, responsible for sharp central vision, swells from leaking fluid. This condition is called macular edema. If new blood vessels are growing on the retina, they can leak and block vision.

Am I at Risk?

All people with diabetes are at risk- both type 1 and type 2. This is why at Eye Health Vision Centers, we recommend that diabetic patients see us yearly for a dilated eye exam. The longer someone has diabetes, the more likely they are to develop diabetic retinopathy. Between 40 ad 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy.

During pregnancy, diabetic women are more at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. The doctor may recommend she come back for additional exams during the pregnancy.

The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) have shown that better control over blood sugar levels slows the onset and progression of diabetic retinopathy. This reduces a lot of problems for diabetics, including less kidney and nerve disease. Ask your doctor which level of blood sugar control would be best for you.

How is Diabetic Retinopathy Treated?

The first three stages of diabetic retinopathy do not require treatment, unless there is macular edema. To prevent progression of diabetic retinopathy, people with diabetes should control their levels of blood sugar, blood pressure and blood cholesterol.

Proliferative Retinopathy, the fourth stage, is treated with laser surgery. This procedure is called scatter laser treatment. This surgery helps to shrink the abnormal blood vessels. One of our highly skilled doctors places 1,000 to 2,000 laser burns in the areas of the retina away from the macula, causing the blood vessels to shrink. This may require two or more sessions to complete, because of the high number of laser burns required. This surgery may result in slight loss of side vision, but will save the rest of your sight. Once you have proliferative retinopathy, there will always be a risk for new bleeding. More than one treatment at Eye Health Vision Centers throughout life may be necessary.

If bleeding is severe, a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy may be required to save vision. During this procedure, blood is removed from the center of the eye.

If you have already lost vision due to diabetic retinopathy, your doctor may be able to help by providing low vision services and devices that can help you make the most out of remaining vision. Ask for a referral to a specialist in low vision.

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Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic RetinopathyDiabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in American adults. At Eye Health Vision Centers, we are experienced and skilled in treating this all too common disease. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by changes in the blood vessels in the back area of the eye called the retina. In some cases of diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels will swell and leak fluid. In other cases, abnormal blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina.

With diabetic retinopathy, symptoms and changes in vision are not immediately apparent. Over time, diabetic retinopathy will decrease vision, usually affecting both eyes. Diabetic retinopathy occurs in four stages, which are:

  1. Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy. The earliest stage in diabetic retinopathy, this is when microaneurysms occur. Microaneurysms are the small areas of balloon-like swelling in the retina's tiny blood vessels.
  2. Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy. As the disease progresses, the blood vessels that nourish the retina start to become blocked off.
  3. Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy. Blood vessels become even more blocked off, depriving several areas of the retina of their blood supply. These areas of the retina send signals to the body to grow new blood vessels in order to nourish the retina.
  4. Proliferative Retinopathy. This is the most advanced of diabetic retinopathy. At this stage, the retina is sending signals to body triggering the growth of new, fragile and unstable blood vessels. They start to grow along the retina and along the surface of the vitreous gel that fills the inside of the eye. The blood vessels themselves do not cause vision loss, but the leaking fluid clouds the vitreous gel and obscures vision. This causes severe vision loss and even blindness.

View Video


Symptoms and Detection

This disease often shows no signs or symptoms of its presence in the early stages. It is important to not wait for the symptoms, but to take a more proactive approach. Having comprehensive dilated exams once a year will ensure that this disease is caught and controlled early on, keeping vision loss at a minimum.

Blurred vision is the most common symptom of the later stages of diabetic retinopathy. This is caused when the macula, responsible for sharp central vision, swells from leaking fluid. This condition is called macular edema. If new blood vessels are growing on the retina, they can leak and block vision.

Am I at Risk?

All people with diabetes are at risk- both type 1 and type 2. This is why at Eye Health Vision Centers, we recommend that diabetic patients see us yearly for a dilated eye exam. The longer someone has diabetes, the more likely they are to develop diabetic retinopathy. Between 40 ad 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy.

During pregnancy, diabetic women are more at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. The doctor may recommend she come back for additional exams during the pregnancy.

The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) have shown that better control over blood sugar levels slows the onset and progression of diabetic retinopathy. This reduces a lot of problems for diabetics, including less kidney and nerve disease. Ask your doctor which level of blood sugar control would be best for you.

How is Diabetic Retinopathy Treated?

The first three stages of diabetic retinopathy do not require treatment, unless there is macular edema. To prevent progression of diabetic retinopathy, people with diabetes should control their levels of blood sugar, blood pressure and blood cholesterol.

Proliferative Retinopathy, the fourth stage, is treated with laser surgery. This procedure is called scatter laser treatment. This surgery helps to shrink the abnormal blood vessels. One of our highly skilled doctors places 1,000 to 2,000 laser burns in the areas of the retina away from the macula, causing the blood vessels to shrink. This may require two or more sessions to complete, because of the high number of laser burns required. This surgery may result in slight loss of side vision, but will save the rest of your sight. Once you have proliferative retinopathy, there will always be a risk for new bleeding. More than one treatment at Eye Health Vision Centers throughout life may be necessary.

If bleeding is severe, a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy may be required to save vision. During this procedure, blood is removed from the center of the eye.

If you have already lost vision due to diabetic retinopathy, your doctor may be able to help by providing low vision services and devices that can help you make the most out of remaining vision. Ask for a referral to a specialist in low vision.

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The Greater New Bedford Surgical and Laser Center was opened in 1986 with the express purpose of rendering high quality, state of the art eye surgery to patients of all ages, especially those with cataracts, glaucoma, or cornea disease. The Center is designed specifically with the needs of the patient in mind. The entire process from initial examination to final outcome is conducted in a pleasant comfortable environment.

After a patient decides to have surgery, he or she is assigned his or her own Surgical Counselor who is available to answer questions and provide assistance. These individuals are specially trained to assist the patient throughout the entire surgical experience, including follow up care for as long as necessary. Patients are encouraged to contact their counselor for any questions, no matter how simple or complex.

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