Your Questions on Diabetic Retinopathy Answered

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes. It occurs when the blood vessels that supply the retina are damaged as a result of high blood sugar levels that are a symptom of diabetes. This results in damage to the retina, which in turn affects vision.

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that usually affects both eyes. It can result in retinal detachment, which can only be corrected with surgery. It can also result in the eventual loss of vision.

Am I at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy?

If you have been diagnosed with either type 1 or 2 diabetes, your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy is high. This is because of the fluctuating blood sugar levels. However, most people suffering from diabetes don’t develop the condition until they have had diabetes for at least 10 years.

Can diabetic retinopathy be prevented?

The primary cause in the development of diabetic retinopathy is high and fluctuating blood sugar levels. Therefore, keeping your blood sugar levels even can go a long way in helping to prevent the development of the condition.

However, even with even blood sugar levels, it is still possible to develop diabetic retinopathy. It is therefore important to have regular eye exams. This will help your doctor identify the condition in the early stages of development and allow her to provide treatment for it as soon as possible.

What signs and symptoms should I look out for?

Unfortunately, diabetic retinopathy often creeps in silently. The early stages of development of the disease can be difficult to detect. You may not have any symptoms except blurred vision.

Later stages of the disease include more obvious symptoms including blind spots, cloudy vision and floaters.

Regular eye exams are the best way to ensure that the condition is identified early.

Is there a cure for diabetic retinopathy?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for diabetic retinopathy. However, various treatments can be applied in the early stages of the development of the condition in order to slow down its progression. Unfortunately, these treatments will not reverse the loss of vision.

What treatments are there for diabetic retinopathy?

The best treatment for the condition is prevention – ensure that your blood sugar levels and blood pressure levels are kept under control.

Laser photocoagulation may be recommended to slow down the progression of the condition by reducing leaking from the blood vessels and preventing the growth of new blood vessels.

For more information, talk to an eye care specialist.

What Are Cataracts?

The eyes are enormously complex and delicate, but basically they function like an analog camera. Clear vision depends on light being able to enter the eyes and travel unobstructed through to the back inside surface – the retina, which is like the camera film.

The incoming light passes first through the cornea, the clear front eye covering. Then it passes through the pupil, that black opening in the iris, the colored part. Next it passes through the lens, then the clear fluid which fills most of the eyeball. Behind this fluid is the retina. Both the cornea and lens bend the light to focus it on the retina, and that gives you clear vision.

Cataracts interrupt the flow of light and prevent some of it from reaching the retina. They are tiny clumps of protein in the lens. The lens consists mostly of water and proteins but as we age and the body becomes drier, the protein begins to stick together. At first cataracts are tiny but they grow and increase in number. Left untreated they will eventually cause blindness.

There are three ways that cataracts can form and spread in the lens:

From the center outwards
From the periphery inwards
On the back surface of the lens

You can read more on our Cataracts page. Cataracts cannot be removed from the lens, so surgery must be done to remove the lens from the eye and replace it with an intraocular lens (IOL).

If you are concerned that you may be developing cataracts, or if you would like to learn more about them and how they affect your vision, please contact an experienced cataract ophthalmologist in your area.

Charities Bringing Quality Cataract Care to Bangladesh and other Countries

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 87% of the worlds visually impaired live in developing countries, where they lack access to the basic health care that can prevent or treat their visual impairment. According to WHO, 85% of blindness is avoidable, either by proper nutrition and eye care or through surgical correction. Cataracts remain the worlds leading cause of blindness globally, but simple refractive errors like myopia and hyperopia impair millions of children worldwide. While visual care for individuals seem to be a very low priority for governments, especially those strapped for cash during the recession, private charities are taking up the challenge.

One such charity is ORBIS International, which works to save sight and avoid blindness in many countries, including Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, India, Vietnam, and Jamaica. ORBIS works by bringing in skilled vision care practitioners, but also by working to increase the capacity of countries to deal with vision impairment on their own. They do this by:

  • Training doctors and nurses in-country
  • Supplying technology
  • Helping to build eye care institutions
  • Educating community members about eye health
  • Encouraging changes of behaviors that threaten eye health
  • Helping to reform local health care systems

This is by far the most important part of their mission, because it means that after the ORBIS doctors go home, doctors in-country can continue to provide the continuous eye care necessary to continue preventing and treating blindness.

Remember, 85% of blindness is avoidable. To learn about how you can treat your cataracts before they become blinding, please contact a local cataract surgeon today to discuss your treatment options.

FDA Advisory Panel Recommends Approval of IOP-Lowering Stent

iStent, a glaucoma control device designed for placement during cataract surgery, was recommended for approval by a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel on July 30, but is still awaiting actual approval by the FDA. Glaucoma is a condition in which damage to the optic nerve leads to vision loss, often as a result of elevated intraocular pressure. The iStent is a tiny tube that helps drainage of intraocular fluids through a previously clogged open angle.

The recommendation for this device was not exactly stellar. Although the panel voted that there was reasonable assurance that the device was safe, could reduce IOP, and that the benefits outweighed the risks, this was only in the context of cataract surgery, because otherwise the very limited benefits of the device were not considered to outweigh the risks.

Cataract surgery and glaucoma treatment can be mutually reinforcing if properly performed. To learn more about your treatment options, please talk to a local ophthalmologist today.

Study Finds no Link between Steroid Inhalers and Cataract Risk

After three children enrolled in the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) developed posterior subcapsular cataracts (one requiring surgical correction), several members of the CAMP population were evaluated for cataracts to determine if inhaled steroids increased a childs risk of developing cataracts early. This was in addition to the 4-6 year follow-up of the CAMP study itself. Of the 232 children evaluated, 16 had cataracts and 12 had posterior cataracts. However, there was no difference in the incidence in cataracts between the group receiving inhaled corticosteroids and the control group (which received no treatment).

Researchers say that the current study did not rule out a connection, but it certainly casts doubt on a possible connection, and, at least, shows that any increased risk of cataracts from inhaled corticosteroid use must be relatively small. Previous studies have shown a significant connection between steroid use and the development of cataracts, but mostly in older patients, aged 49 and older.

To learn more about cataracts, please contact an ophthalmologist in your area today.