Do you have diabetes?
What is diabetic retinopathy?
- Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that leads to damage of the small blood vessels in the retina, the back of the eye which captures images and sends the information to your brain. High blood sugar levels inside these blood vessels can cause them to swell, leak fluid into your eye, or cause swelling of the retina itself, or can close the vessel completely, stopping blood from passing through. Sometimes, new vessels can start to grow on your retina. All of these things can cause poor vision and even blindness.
How can diabetic retinopathy be treated?
- Regulated control of your blood sugar and blood pressure is key to preventing the formation and worsening of diabetic retinopathy.
- Painless injections of medications such as anti-VEGF (anti-vascular endothelial growth factor) or steroids into the eye may help to reduce macular swelling and slow vision loss.
- A quick laser procedure can help control blood vessels affected by diabetic retinopathy. The laser can seal off leaking vessels and reduce swelling, or may be used to shrink vessels and prevent them from growing across the retina.
- For more advanced diabetic retinopathy, your doctor might suggest a vitrectomy. A vitrectomy is a surgery removing some of the vitreous gel and blood from leaking vessels inside your eye. During this procedure, scar tissue may also be removed from your retina.
What can you do for diabetic retinopathy at home?
- Schedule regular eye exams and report any changes in vision to your doctor
- Keep your blood sugar in the target range
- Follow your diet and eat a variety of food, distributing carbohydrates throughout your meals
- If your doctor recommends, get more exercise by slowly increasing the amount every day
- Take your medications exactly as prescribed and call your doctor if you think there is a problem
- Check your blood sugar as frequently as your doctor recommends
- Eat a low-fat and low-sodium diet to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol at target levels
- Quit smoking, as smoking can worsen diabetic retinopathy
When should you call for help?
- Difficulty perceiving colors
- Unregulated blood sugar or blood pressure levels
- Sudden decrease in vision
- Flashes of light or new floaters, or if you see a “curtain” over your vision
- If you need help adjusting to reduced vision
- If you do not see as well as you think you should wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses