Diabetic Retinopathy is the leading cause of new blindness among adults in the United States. If untreated, there is a risk of becoming blind. The longer one has diabetes, the higher the incidence of developing diabetic retinopathy. Approximately 80% of people who have diabetes for 15 years have some damage to their retinal vessels. With today's treatment only a small percentage of people have serious vision problems.
There are two types of diabetic retinopathy. Background retinopathy is considered the early stage. Vision is typically not affected, but it can advance and cause severe vision problems. There are usually no symptoms with background diabetic retinopathy. A dilated eye exam is the only way to diagnose changes in the vessels of your eyes.
When the retinopathy becomes advanced, new vessels grow, or proliferate, in the retina. These new vessels are the body's attempt to overcome and replace the vessels which have been damaged by diabetes. But these new vessels are not normal. They may bleed, which causes vision to become hazy and sometimes causing a total loss of vision. These new vessels can also damage the retina by forming scar tissue and by pulling the retina away from its proper location. This stage, called proliferative retinopathy, requires immediate medical attention. Treatment is necessary to prevent severe loss of vision. Regular dilated eye exams are crucial for all persons with diabetes. The progressing damage to the blood vessels in the eye can be slowed with treatment.
Diabetic retinopathy can sometimes require a laser treatment called Pan-Retinal Photocoagulation. At Mountain View Eye Center, we have a Krypton laser in-house that can be used in treating diabetic retinopathy.
Another eye condition which is associated with diabetes is diabetic macular edema (DME). Depending on the severity, DME can be treated with eye drop medications or injected medications.