Diabetic Retinopathy: Symptoms, Causes, Types, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Stages, Treatment and Prevention

Diabetic Retinopathy: Symptoms, Causes, Types, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Stages, Treatment and Prevention
Diabetic Retinopathy: Symptoms, Causes, Types, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Stages, Treatment and Prevention

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is an underlying condition that arises due to diabetes that can seriously affect a person’s vision and eye health. Diabetic retinopathy is actually a complication of diabetes mellitus that appears due to the damage of the blood vessels located at the back of the eye that usually comprises light-sensitive tissues of retina. At first, the condition of diabetic retinopathy might result in causing no symptoms at all or very mild vision issues but it can lead to the development of blindness.

The condition might arise in anyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The longer a person has diabetes and the less they control their blood sugar levels, the more likely they are to develop the eye complication of diabetic retinopathy. People having diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy which occurs due to a severe damage in the retinal blood vessels as a result of high blood sugar levels. Therefore, the blood vessels in the retina can inflame and leak or they might constrict and stop the blood flow.

However, sometimes there is an abnormal growth of new blood vessels in the retina which can cause severe changes to the eye and consequently steal a person’s vision in the longer run. The symptoms of diabetic retinopathy do not appear in the earlier stages of the condition so it is essential to get a regular eye exam if you are suffering from any type of diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy can result in blindness and vision loss in severe cases of diabetic patients so early detection might be helpful to protect your vision.

1Diabetic Retinopathy Symptoms

Diabetic Retinopathy Symptoms
Diabetic Retinopathy Symptoms

The earlier stages of diabetic retinopathy usually do not show any noticeable symptoms. Some people might experience changes in their vision and these changes might come and go including seeing faraway objects or trouble reading newspapers or books. The blood vessels in the retina might start bleeding into the vitreous i.e., the gel-like fluid filling the eyes in the later stages of diabetic retinopathy. If the retina starts to bleed into the vitreous, you might notice floating dark streaks or spots that look similar to cobwebs.

At times, the dark spots might clear up on their own but it is necessary to get immediate medical treatment. The bleeding might occur again, cause scarring, or get worse if you do not get any treatment. A person can have the condition of diabetic retinopathy and does not know it because it usually has no noticeable symptoms in the earlier stages. As the condition gets worse, a person will start noticing symptoms like:

  • Blurred vision
  • Noticing a higher number of floaters
  • Vision changes switching from blurry to clear
  • Poor night vision
  • Seeing dark or blank areas in the field of vision
  • Loss of vision
  • Noticing faded or washed-out appearance of colors

The symptoms of diabetic retinopathy usually affect both the eyes of the patient and ultimately lead to alterations to the vision causing vision loss or blindness. With the progression of the condition, a person might start to develop the more severe symptoms of diabetic retinopathy. Careful management of diabetes can be the best and only way to stop the progression of vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy. If a person has diabetes, then he must visit an eye doctor for an annual eye exam with dilation, meaning even if his vision seems fine already.

In addition, the patients with gestational diabetes i.e., the development of diabetes during pregnancy can have higher chances of becoming a victim of diabetic retinopathy. Some women might also suffer from diabetes before conceiving which also makes them highly prone to getting diabetic retinopathy. Therefore, if you are pregnant, a specialist in eye health might suggest a series of additional eye exams throughout your pregnancy. It is important to contact your doctor right away if the vision changes abruptly or becomes spotty, hazy, or blurry.

In the starting stages of diabetic retinopathy, patients who are asymptomatic normally; in the more recent stages of the disease, therefore, patients might have symptoms that consist of blurred vision, floaters, progressive visual acuity loss, and distortion. The symptoms of diabetic retinopathy involve the following:

  • Blot and dot hemorrhages: Presence similar to microaneurysms if they are tiny; they appear as microaneurysms break in the deeper layers in the retina, such as the outer plexiform layers and inner nuclear
  • Microaneurysms: The initial clinical symptom of diabetic retinopathy; happen secondary to the capillary wall bulge out because of pericyte loss; they occur as small, the red dots in the superficial retinal layers
  • Hard exudates and retinal edema: Happens by the breakdown of the blood-retina hurdle, letting the leakage of lipids, serum proteins, and the protein from the vessels
  • Flame-shaped hemorrhages: Splinter hemorrhages that happen in the more outermost nerve fiber layer
  • Cotton-wool spots: Nerve fiber layer breaking from occlusion of precapillary arterioles; they are mostly bordered by vascular and microaneurysms hyper permeability
  • Macular edema: Giving rise to visual impairment in patients having diabetes
  • Intraretinal microvascular abnormalities: Remodeling of capillary beds without the thriving changes, might normally be present on the borders of the nonperfused retina
  • Venous beading and venous loops: Most commonly appear adjacent to the areas of nonperfusion; they show the rising retinal ischemia and their appearance is the most important indicator of development to proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR)
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