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Diabetes

What are the symptoms?

 

Unfortunately, diabetic retinopathy (retinal damage from diabetes) need NOT cause any symptoms.  While many patients develop blurred vision from swelling in the retina, it is possible to have absolutely no symptoms but to have relatively advanced damage.  That is why diabetics MUST SEE AN OPHTHALMOLOGIST AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR for a dilated fundoscopic exam.  Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who have years of specialized training in examining and treating eye disease, and can recognize the early signs of diabetic retinopathy.

 

Prevention & Treatment

 

Early treatment of retinopathy and regular visits to an ophthalmologist often improves the potential for saving sight.  It is important that people with diabetes see an ophthalmolgist at least once a year, even before any symptoms appear.

 

Copy_of_retinalaser retina lasurg

Retinal Laser treatment can potentially

reverse eye damage caused by diabetes!

Dr. Cohn performs retinal laser treatment

How does diabetes affect the eye?

 

The retina, a paper-thin tissue, lines the back of the eye like wallpaper. It functions like film in a camera…light strikes it and provides us with vision.  Diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels in the retina, and evenutually causes poor blood flow to the back of the eye. In advanced cases, fluid from these leaking and damaged blood vessels will fill the center of the retina (the macula).   When this occurs, vision loss may be mild, moderate, or quite significant.

 

As blood flow decreases, the retina literally starves for oxygen.  In advanced cases, fragile new blood vessels grow to replace the dead ones.  Unfortunately, these new weak vessels often break, bleed, and fill the entire eye with blood.  This can cause a rapid and significant loss of vision.

If diabetic retinopathy already exists in the eye, retinal laser treatments can be performed both to help reduce swelling in the retina as well as to help reverse new vessel formation in the retina.  Dr. Cohn performs retinal laser treatments for diabetics using our in-office laser.  These painless treatments usually take less than 30 minutes.  Total anesthesia is achieved with eyedrops alone.   No physical restrictions are placed on the patient after treatment! Vision lost to retinal swelling may take weeks or even months to recover, even after laser treatment.

 

The best treatment for diabetic retinopathy certainly is prevention…good blood sugar control and annual visits (at least) to the ophthalmologist are the rule!

 

For more information, visit the National Eye Institute's webpage on diabetic retinopathy.

American Academy of Ophthalmology Video

about Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy

American Academy of Ophthalmology Video

about Nonproliferative Diabetic Retinopathy