Diabetic Retinopathy Definition
Diabetic retinopathy is a disorder of the eye, which occurs in diabetics. At first, often diabetic retinopathy shows only mild symptoms, or even no symptoms at all. But if left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness.
Diabetic Retinopathy Causes
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that triggers blockages in blood vessels in the retina of the eye. The retina is the layer at the back of the eye that is sensitive to light. The retina functions to convert light that enters the eye into electrical signals, which are then passed on to the brain. In the brain, these electrical signals will be perceived as images.
In order to function properly, the retina needs blood intake from the surrounding blood vessels. In diabetics, high blood sugar levels will slowly clog the blood vessels, resulting in reduced blood intake to the retina. As a result, the retina will form new blood vessels to meet blood needs. However, these newly formed blood vessels do not develop perfectly, making them susceptible to rupture or leaking.
Diabetic Retinopathy Risk Factors
You may be more at risk of diabetic retinopathy if you have the following factors:
- Have had diabetes for a long time
- Poor blood sugar control
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Diabetics can slow the progression of this condition by reducing these risk factors.
Diabetic Retinopathy Symptoms
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy are not noticeable at an early stage. Because, symptoms usually only appear when the disease has entered a higher stage.
But regular retinal examinations can help detect retinopathy early. Examination by the doctor is among others done by taking photos of the deepest part of the retina or fundus.
Eye examination is highly recommended for people with type 1 and 2 diabetes. Retinal actions that can be performed in clinics or eye hospitals are increasingly urgent if diabetic patients experience:
- Decreased vision ability
- Suddenly impaired vision
- There are spots or spots floating when viewing (floater)
- Blurred/shaded vision
- Sore or red eyes
Those conditions are not always a symptom of diabetic retinopathy. But it is important to check it out and consult an ophthalmologist as a precautionary measure.
Especially for mothers-to-be who also have diabetes, retinal examination should be performed in each trimester. In addition to the mother-to-be, this examination is necessary for the baby who will be born.
In the examination, the doctor will try to find signs such as:
- Leaking blood vessels
- Swelling of the retina
- Retinal exudation (sign of leaking blood vessels)
- Damaged neural tissue (neuropathy)
- Any changes in blood vessels.
Diabetic Retinopathy Diagnosis
Before knowing more about how to determine the diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy, it is necessary to know in advance two types of this disease, namely:
- Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, i.e. retinal abnormalities in the form of thinning retinal blood vessels, bleeding spots in the retina, and vision centers (macula) appear pale.
- Proliferative diabetic retinopathy, a continuation of non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, is characterized by the appearance of new blood vessels in the retina.
To be able to see the presence of abnormalities in the retina as above, there are two types of examinations that can be done by ophthalmologists, namely:
Fluorescent angiography examination.
This examination is done by injecting dye (fluorescents) into the veins in the arm.
The dye will color the retinal blood vessels, so that the condition can be more easily seen. Next, the camera will photograph the retina to see if there is a blood vessel thinning, blockage or rupture of blood vessels, and see if there is new blood vessel growth in the retina.
Optical coherence tomography (OCT).
The way this test works is similar to a CT-scan. Through OCT, it can be known a detailed picture of the retina, including the state of the center of vision (macula).
- Image: BruceBlaus. When using this image in external sources it can be cited as:Blausen.com staff (2014). “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014”. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 2002-4436., CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
- Video: National Eye Institute, NIH