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Diabetic Retinopathy


Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of new blindness in adults. In most cases, vision loss from diabetes can be prevented or restored if caught in time. Patients are wise to have routine exams with treatment before their vision becomes blurry. Patients with diabetes should be examined at least once a year. Laser eye surgery is often needed to prevent vision loss. And clear vision does not mean that the disease is absent.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is a complication of diabetes caused by changes in the eyes’ blood vessels. With diabetes, your body does not use and store sugar properly. High blood sugar creates changes in the veins, arteries and capillaries that circulate blood. This includes the tiny blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive nerve layer that lines the back of the eye.

In PDR, the retinal blood vessels are so damaged they close off. In response, the retina grows new, fragile blood vessels. Unfortunately, these new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina, so they do not resupply its blood. Occasionally, they leak and cause vitreous hemorrhage. Blood in the vitreous, the clear gel-like substance that fills the inside of the eye, blocks light from reaching the retina. A small amount of blood will cause dark floaters, while a large hemorrhage might block all vision, leaving only light and dark perception.

The new blood vessels can also create scar tissue. Scar tissue shrinks, wrinkling and pulling on the retina and distorting vision. In severe cases, the macula may detach from its normal position and cause vision loss. Laser eye surgery can shrink the abnormal blood vessels and reduce the risk of bleeding. If a vitreous hemorrhage does not clear within a reasonable time, or if a retinal detachment is detected, an operation called vitrectomy can be performed. During vitrectomy, we remove the hemorrhage and the abnormal blood vessels that caused the bleeding. We also treat with the latest anti-VEGF injection therapy as well as laser therapy.

People with PDR sometimes have no symptoms until it is too late to treat them. The retina may be badly injured before there is any change in vision. Considerable evidence suggests that rigorous control of blood sugar decreases your chance of developing serious PDR. Remember, PDR often has no symptoms.

If you have diabetes, you should have your eyes examined at least once a year or more frequently as recommended by your physician.

For more information about diabetic eye care, call Brazosport Eye Institute at 979.297.2961. You can also schedule your consultation with an eye doctor by filling out our online Request an Appointment form. Our diabetic patients visit us from Pearland, Lake Jackson, Freeport, Angleton (Brazoria County, TX), Columbia Lakes and Bay City (Matagorda County, TX).

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