Treating Diabetic Retinopathy in Mustang, Yukon and El Reno
The condition known as diabetic retinopathy affects blood vessels in the retina that lines the back of your eye. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness among working-age adults. Treatment, which includes eye surgery, depends on the type and severity of retinopathy. In mild cases, blood sugar control may be the only therapy our eye surgeon recommends.
In advanced diabetic retinopathy, eye surgery may become necessary. As an eye surgeon, Dr. Hester can perform laser procedures or an eye surgery called vitrectomy to remove blood from the vitreous (middle eye) and scar tissue that pulls on the retina. Surgery can slow or stop the progression of diabetic eye disease, but cannot cure it. That’s why researchers are currently targeting medications that may prevent abnormal blood vessels from forming in the eye.
Causes & Symptoms Of Diabetic Retinopathy
According to the American Optometric Association, diabetes causes damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. Damaged blood vessels can cause vision loss as fluid leaks into the part of the retina responsible for clear central vision, called the macula. Early diabetic retinopathy may cause no symptoms or mild vision problems. Later on, it may cause blindness in anyone with type 1 or type 2-diabetes. The longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to develop diabetic retinopathy, which usually affects both eyes. Some symptoms to look out for include:
- Black spots or strings floating across your vision (“floaters”)
- Blurry vision
- Fluctuating vision
- Impaired color perception
- Darkened or blank areas in vision
- Noticeable vision loss
Diagnosis & Treatment Of Diabetic Retinopathy
Ophthalmologists and eye doctors diagnose diabetic retinopathy with a comprehensive dilated eye exam. We place drops in your eyes to widen (dilate) your pupils. This gives us a better view inside your eyes. These eye drops may cause blurring in your close-up vision until they wear off several hours later. Your eye doctor will examine you for:
- Abnormal blood vessels
- Swelling, blood or fatty deposits on the retina
- New blood vessel growth & scar tissue
- Bleeding in the clear center of the eye (vitreous)
- Retinal detachment
- Optic nerve abnormalities
In addition, some ophthalmologists may test your vision, measure your eye pressure to test for glaucoma, and look for cataracts.
Fluorescein Angiography Diagnosis
With your pupils dilated, we take pictures of the insides of your eyes. Then we inject a special dye into your arm and take more pictures as it circulates through your eye blood vessels. We use these images to identify closed, broken or leaking blood vessels.
Optical Coherence Tomography Diagnosis
Ophthalmologists often request optical coherence tomography (OCT) exams to obtain cross-sectional images revealing the thickness of the retina. This helps determine whether fluid has leaked into the retina. Ophthalmologists also use OCT exams to monitor the effectiveness of treatment.
Treating Diabetic Retinopathy
Your treatment will depend on the type of diabetic retinopathy you have and its severity. Your treatment will be geared to slowing or stopping your disease progression. If you have a mild condition, you may not need treatment right away. However, your ophthalmologist will closely monitor your eyes to determine if and when you need treatment. You can also look for ways to improve your diabetes management. When diabetic retinopathy is mild to moderate, good blood sugar control alone can slow its progression. If you have more severe proliferative diabetic retinopathy or macular edema, you'll need prompt surgical treatment. Your eye surgery options may include:
- Photocoagulation. Laser treatment can stop or slow the leakage of blood and fluid in the eye.
- Panretinal photocoagulation. Laser treatment that can shrink the abnormal blood vessels.
- Vitrectomy. A procedure that removes blood from the middle of the eye (vitreous) as well as scar tissue that's impacting the retina.
- Injecting eye medicine. Placing medication directly into the vitreous may help stop growth of new blood vessels by blocking growth signals.
These eye surgery procedures often slow or stop the progression of diabetic retinopathy, but they cannot cure the disease. Since diabetes is a lifelong condition, future retinal damage and vision loss are still possible. You will still need eye exams even after treatment for diabetic retinopathy.
Learn more about diabetic retinopathy from a compassionate ophthalmologist. Call Ralph Hester, MD, Ophthalmology at 405.271.9500. For your convenience, you can use our Request an Appointment form. Our diabetic retinopathy patients come to us from El Reno, Mustang, Norman, Yukon, Piedmont, Bethany and Edmond.