Patients with diabetes are more likely to develop eye problems such as cataracts and glaucoma, but the disease?s affect on the retina is the main threat to vision. Most patients develop diabetic changes in the retina after approximately 20 years. The effect of diabetes on the eye is called diabetic retinopathy
. The earliest phase the arteries in the retina become weakened and leak, forming small, dot-like hemorrhages. These leaking vessels often lead to swelling or edema in the retina and decreased vision. The next stage is known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy where circulation problems cause areas of the retina to become oxygen-deprived or ischemic. New, fragile, vessels develop as the circulatory system attempts to maintain adequate oxygen levels within the retina. This is called neovascularization
. The delicate vessels hemorrhage easily. Blood may leak into the retina and vitreous, causing spots or floaters, along with decreased vision. In the later phases of the disease, continued abnormal vessel growth and scar tissue may cause serious problems such as retinal detachment
and glaucoma. Symptoms would include 1) Blurred vision (related to blood sugar levels) 2) Floaters and flashes. 3) Sudden loss of vision. Diabetic retinopathy is treated in many ways depending on the stage of the disease and the specific problem that requires attention. The retinal surgeon would require tests like fluorescein angiography
, retinal photography, and ultrasound imaging of the eye, to monitor the progression of the disease and to make decisions for the appropriate treatment. The abnormal growth of tiny blood vessels and the associated complication of bleeding is one of the most common problems where laser surgery called pan retinal photocoagulation (PRP) is usually the treatment of choice for this problem. While this creates blind spots in the peripheral vision
, PRP prevents the continued growth of the fragile vessels and seals the leaking ones. Vitrectomy is another surgery commonly needed for diabetic patients who suffer a vitreous hemorrhage
(bleeding in the gel-like substance that fills the center of the eye). Patients with diabetes are at greater risk of developing retinal tears and detachment. Tears are often sealed with laser surgery. Retinal detachment requires surgical treatment
to reattach the retina to the back of the eye.