Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Don't loose sight of Diabetes

Diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness. In fact, it is one of the leading causes of blindness in the USA. High blood sugar can damage the tiny blood vessels in the back of the eye called the retina. The vessels can bleed and leak and sometimes grow new, fragile vessels. These new blood vessels can form scar tissue increasing the risk of retinal detachment.

Common symptoms may include fluctuating or decreased vision. Diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed by an optometrist during a dilated eye exam. It is recommended that everyone who has diabetes obtain a yearly dilated exam.

There are two types of diabetic retinopathy: nonproliferative and proliferative. Retinopathy will often begin in the nonproliferative stage and move on to the proliferative. When the retinopathy has reached the proliferative stage the risk for major loss of vision increases dramatically.

Today I saw a diabetic patient. I noticed a number of small hemorrhages(broken blood vessels). There was a collection of yellowy spots on her retina which was a sign that her blood vessels were leaking. When we checked her blood sugar it was far above normal for a screening. She has a risk of losing her vision if she cannot control the diabetes.

The best treatment for diabetic retinopathy, especially in the early stages, is blood sugar control. In later stages laser treatment may be necessary to control the growth of blood vessels.

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