Diabetes is a chronic illness that affects your body’s ability to regulate blood glucose (blood sugar) and without treatment, it can wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system, kidneys, nervous system, and your eyes. When this occurs, it’s called diabetic retinopathy.
Getting eye checkups is vital to treating diabetic retinopathy before it gets worse. If you live in the Pelham Gardens area of The Bronx, New York, and you’re struggling with diabetic neuropathy, the team of doctors at Bronx Eye Associates can help.
What is diabetic neuropathy?
Diabetes damages your eyes due to how it affects the retinal vessels and in severe cases the optic nerve. In the early stages, retinal blood vessels weaken, creating bulges in the smaller vessels that protrude and sometimes leak fluid and blood into the retina itself. This can cause larger blood vessels to become irregular in shape and cause more damage.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the more severe form of retinopathy where the damaged retinal vessels close off, forming abnormal blood vessels in your retina that can leak into the vitreous of your eye (the jellylike material filling the center of your eye).
The scar tissue that forms from this process can cause retinal detachment, and lead to pressure buildup in your eye. The damage can also damage your optic nerve, leading to blindness and glaucoma.
How often should you have eye checkups?
If you have type 2 diabetes, you should have eye checkups for this condition immediately when you’re diagnosed and annually afterward. If you start experiencing other symptoms like blurring, spots, flashes, blind spots, difficulty with doing detailed work, and distorted vision, you should have a checkup immediately.
For type 1 diabetes, you should have an exam within five years, with regular annual checkups after. Exams for diabetic retinopathy generally consist of dilating the pupils to test retinal health and digital imaging with a special camera to look for evidence of the condition. This increases the chances of catching the illness early enough to reduce severe eye damage.
How is it treated?
Once we confirm the retinopathy and know the extent of the damage, we can treat the illness with multiple methods:
- Panretinal photocoagulation, also known as scatter laser treatment, uses scattered laser burns to shrink damaged blood vessels
- Photocoagulation, a focal laser treatment designed to slow down fluid and blood leakage in your eye
- Vitrectomy, a method to remove the blood from your vitreous done with a tiny incision in the eye
- Injection, where we inject vascular endothelial growth factor inhibitors into your vitreous to prevent the growth of new blood vessels and lower the buildup of fluid in your eye
In the early stages of this condition, the wait-and-see approach is common, with other treatments only starting when signs of further damage appear.
Diabetic retinopathy is an illness that can do serious harm without proper care, so be sure to have regular checkups and take the necessary steps to control your diabetes as much as possible.
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or are showing symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, make an appointment with the team at Bronx Eye Associates as soon as possible to get examinations and treatment.