What is Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema?

Diabetic retinopathy is retinal damage caused by diabetes which could lead to blindness. This can be prevented if detected ahead of time, proper diabetic treatment, and regular eye checkups by your eye doctor.

Abnormal high levels of blood sugar caused by uncontrolled diabetes accumulate in blood vessels leading to blood flow alteration in the body organs like the eyes.

There are two general classifications of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes – In this type, your body is unable to produce insulin on its own, needing injections or other medications to supply insulin. Your blood sugar levels become unregulated and high when the insulin your body produces is insufficient.

Type 2 diabetes – Your body produces enough insulin but improperly uses it making you either non-insulin-dependent or insulin-resistant. This causes abnormal increases in your blood sugar levels because the body compensates by producing more insulin.

These two types of diabetes increase the risk of diabetic retinopathy caused by blood vessel clog or damage from high amounts of blood sugar.

What Are the Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema?

Diabetes-related eye problems have symptoms such as:

  • Eye floaters and spots
  • Shadow development in your field of view
  • Blurry or distorted vision
  • Fluctuating vision
  • Corneal abrasions
  • Eye pain
  • Cataracts
  • Double vision
  • Near vision problems not associated with presbyopia

Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema

What Are the Types of Diabetic Eye Disease?

Clinically significant macular edema (CSME) – leads to a reduced or distorted vision caused by a swollen macula. Diabetic macular edema (DME) has two classifications:

  • Focal, caused by vascular abnormalities with leaky blood vessels.
  • Diffuse, the capillaries within the retina are dilated or swollen.

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) – deposits formed in the retina occurring after the onset of diabetes. Examining the retina shows tiny dots and blot hemorrhages (microaneurysm), which are a type of bulging tiny blood vessels.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) – this type of diabetic retinopathy has the greatest risk of vision loss.

The following are the signs of PDR:

  • Neovascularization or abnormal blood vessels development on the optic nerve or vitreous.
  • Preretinal hemorrhage occurence in the vitreous humor or front of the retina.
  • Decreased or blocked blood flow causing ischemia

Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema

Who Acquires Diabetic Retinopathy?

Besides diabetic presence, maintaining your blood sugar level determines your possibility to develop diabetic retinopathy with accompanying vision loss.

Hypertension has been related to diabetic eye damage. Pregnant diabetic women are more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy with a higher progression rate.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) said that those with diabetes for a long time will develop some degree of diabetic retinopathy though it will not lead to vision loss.

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