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Diabetic retinopathy is a retinal problem that affects people with high blood sugar. If your blood sugar routinely reaches unhealthy levels, the blood vessels in your eyes may become damaged, abnormal blood vessels may grow and scar tissue may form and damage your retina and your eyesight. This condition is known as diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness in the United States.
The disease takes two forms:
The longer you have diabetes and the less you regulate your blood sugar, the more likely you are to develop this condition. If you have diabetes, see an ophthalmologist for a full eye exam yearly. Finding and treating problems early may save your sight. If your vision changes suddenly or becomes blurry, spotty or hazy, schedule an exam by one of our ophthalmologists right away.
What are the Symptoms?
At first, you may not have symptoms or they may be mild. As the disease progresses, you may experience:
Protecting yourself against diabetes is the best way to avoid retinopathy. If you are already diabetic, regular eye exams, controlling your blood sugar, and blood pressure are essential to preventing this disease.
Diabetics need vision experts on their health care team. At Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, part of the University of Miami Health System, our skilled retinal specialists partner with you to protect your vision.
Comprehensive Eye Exam - During your exam, your eye care professional dilates your eyes and evaluates your vision for several factors. If necessary, additional tests/procedures may be used to confirm your diagnosis.
Fluorescein Angiography - This test helps your doctor see changes in the structure or function of your retinal blood vessels. To perform this test, your doctor injects a fluorescent yellow dye into a vein in your arm or hand, then photographs your retina as the dye outlines your blood vessels.
Indocyanine Green Angiography (ICG) - This test uses an injectable dye and special cameras to find blood circulation issues in the choroid. The choroid is a layer of blood vessels under the retina.
Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) - This imaging technique provides cross-sectional views of your retina. This helps your physician see if there is any abnormal swelling in your retina.
Ultrasound Imaging - This safe, painless test uses high-frequency sound waves to produce detailed images of the inside of your eye. This helps your doctor identify retinal damage.
Focal Laser Treatment - Also known as photocoagulation, focal laser treatment stops or slows blood flow from leaking inside the eye.
Scatter Laser Treatment - This treatment, also called panretinal photocoagulation, uses a laser to destroy damaged retina, to prevent the formation of abnormal blood vessels and scar tissue that could lead to vision loss. Laser surgeries work best if your condition is not advanced. These laser treatments are outpatient procedures and do not require general anesthesia.
Pharmacologic Therapies - Medications used directly in the eye have shown promise in treating some forms of the disease.
Vitrectomy - If your condition is severe, your surgeon may perform a vitrectomy. To perform this treatment, the surgeon makes small incisions in your eye, removes any abnormal blood or scar tissue and may administer laser treatment or medicine into the eye.