Diabetes and Vision: Diabetic Retinopathy


Diabetes has many side effects and complications on your all-around health; diabetes and vision are entangled in this same way. Dr. Frangie and his professional team have helped many patients with these conditions.

Diabetes and the vision problems it may cause include greater risks of Cataracts and open angle Glaucoma. Another major concern is diabetic retinopathy, a condition in which blood vessels in the retina begin to leak, which causes edema, or swelling.

Diabetes and Vision: Diabetic Retinopathy

Did you know that after 15 years of living with diabetes, 98 percent with type 1 and 78 percent with type 2 have some degree of retinal damage? Diabetic retinopathy is something that many people with diabetes live with and is a common complication of diabetes. It is typically caused by elevated blood sugar levels that damage the blood vessels that provide oxygen to the retina, cutting off its blood supply.

Dr. John Frangie is dedicated to helping patients throughout Western MA and the surrounding area. If you’re someone living with diabetes, or have someone in your life that is, read on to learn more about diabetic retinopathy and the treatment options available to you.

Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy can present in four stages with progressing levels of severity:

  • Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy: Swelling usually begins in the retina blood vessels.
  • Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy: Some of the blood vessels that are crucial for nourishing the retina become blocked.
  • Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy: This is an advanced stage where there are more blocked blood vessels which leads to areas of the retina no longer getting blood supply because of blockage.
  • Proliferative Retinopathy: The final stage of diabetic retinopathy is when signals are sent to grow new blood vessels, which grow abnormally. Individuals in this stage typically experience severe vision loss because the blood vessels grow but will be fragile and abnormal. Because of this, they can leak blood which will lead to vision loss and in some people full blindness.

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

Many people with diabetes don’t realize they have diabetic retinopathy because it is often silent. When symptoms do arise, the problem has usually already become more severe. Here are a few signs to pay attention to:

  • Blurred vision that remains even with glasses
  • Seeing an increasing number of floaters or holes in your field of vision
  • Your vision intermittently worsens, improves, and then worsens again
  • Having poor night vision
  • Noticing colors appear faded or washed out

Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy

Those with early-stage diabetic retinopathy will typically focus on diabetes management. For those in a more advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy, other treatment options may be offered, including:

  • Eye Medication: A medication called vascular endothelial growth factor inhibitors might be injected into the vitreous of the eye to stop the growth of new blood vessels.
  • Photocoagulation: This laser treatment, also known as focal laser treatment, can stop or slow the leakage of blood and fluid in the eye.
  • Panretinal Photocoagulation: This laser treatment, also known as scatter laser treatment, can shrink abnormal blood vessels.
  • Vitrectomy: This is a tiny incision in your eye to remove blood from the middle of the eye.

Diabetic Eye Care

The best way to prevent diabetic retinopathy or prevent it from worsening is with diabetic eye care. Here are a few things you can do.

Routine Vision Exams

Schedule an eye appointment with your doctor at least once a year. This will enable the doctor to check your blood vessels for early signs of damage.

Keep Your Blood Sugar Under Control

High blood sugar can damage your blood vessels, leading to eye damage. Keeping your blood sugar under control will help lower your risk.

Monitor Your Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is one common cause of eye disease. As a person with diabetes, being aware of your blood pressure is important to ensure that it remains a healthy number.

Diabetic Retinopathy in Western Massachusetts

Diabetes and vision problems often go hand-in-hand. Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication for those living with diabetes. This condition can be mild but can also be severe.

The good news is that Dr. John Frangie and Northeast Laser can help you develop and implement practices to prevent diabetic retinopathy and treatment options to help prevent the condition from worsening.

Learn more about potential diabetic retinopathy treatment in West Springfield, MA by contacting us online or calling our office at (413) 363-2732 and scheduling an appointment.

image credit: Stokkete, shutterstock

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