Indira Gandhi Eye Hospital and Research Centre
Indira Gandhi Eye Hospital and Research Centre
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Diabetic Retinopathy

Many people, both young and old, suffering from diabetes mellitus may develop a complication called diabetic retinopathy. This results from damage to the blood vessels in the retina, leading to loss of vision. Diabetic retinopathy is gradual in onset and is related to the duration of diabetes.

Stages

Non-proliferative

Macular edema may occur when the blood vessels leak, thus affecting vision.

Proliferative

Bleeding into the vitreous may occur when new, weak blood vessels grow or proliferate, leading to severe visual loss.

Symptoms

Often there are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, nor is there any pain. Blurred vision may occur in macular edema.

Risk

All patients of diabetes are at high risk of getting diabetic retinopathy. High blood glucose levels, high blood pressure and genetics influence the development and progression of the disease. Early detection can arrest the disease; therefore all diabetics should have their eyes examined at least once a year.

Detection and Diagnosis

Periodic eye examination with dilated pupils is the only way to early detection and prevention of further deterioration of vision. Several tools such as a slit lamp, ultrasound and procedures such as fluorescein angiography are used to diagnose diabetic retinopathy. Fluorescein angiography, magnified photography of the retina using an injectable dye, helps to classify the disease, record changes in the retinal blood vessels, decide on the mode of treatment and evaluate the treatment.

Treatment

Laser treatment

Lasers are particularly effective in slowing down or arresting the progress of diabetic retinopathy and stabilising vision. Laser treatment, usually an outpatient procedure is performed under topical anaesthesia. The patient is positioned before a slit lamp, and the laser beam is directed precisely on the target with the aid of the slit lamp and a special contact lens. Absorption by the diseased tissue either seals or destroys it. Additional treatment may be required according to the patient's condition.

Some common, temporary side-effects of laser treatment are: watering eyes, mild headache, double vision, or blurred vision. However, in case of sudden pain or vision loss, contact your ophthalmologist immediately.

Vitrectomy

A surgical procedure called vitrectomy (replacing the vitreous by a clear artificial solution) is performed in cases where there may be bleeding into the vitreous or the vitreous may pull the retina. This procedure is performed only as a last resort.