Sunday, September 6, 2009

Diabetic Retinopathy-What Is It?

By Ned Dagostino

There are of course numerous complications resulting from diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is one that directly effects your vision. It happens because the eye's retina is damaged because of the diabetes. So let's take a closer look, starting with an explanation of what the retina is.

We don't need a detailed explanation here. You just need to understand that the retina is simply a group of nerves that sits in the back of your eyeball. Think of them like a digital camera. They give your brain a picture of what you see. It's a simple process that people without vision problems can take for granted. But retinopathy interferes with this process.

Blood vessels in the retina are sensitive, and can split. If this happens, fluid from those vessels drip into the eye's compound. And that's when the problems begin.

The first thing you'll notice is what seems like an obstruction in your vision. Over time, scar tissue develops both in and around your eyeball. And finally, the retina will actually detach from where it normally sits.

So how does this relate to diabetes? Well high levels of sugar in the blood can cause the damage we just talked about to occur. But the bigger problem is that all too often the noticeable symptoms happen only after the problem damage has become extremely severe. The result is that frequently you may not even realize the problem exists until it is too late to correct. This means that regular eye checkups from a doctor are essential. In the case of diabetics, you'll need to visit your eye doctor a minimum of every year. Discovering a problem in the early stages makes it much easier to correct.

And between visits, always be on the lookout for symptoms or any changes in your vision. Things like black or white spots, called floaters, that appear without reason. Weak and blurry vision can also be a sign of diabetic retinopathy. Double vision too can be a sign. Even if these problems seem mild, they need to be taken seriously. And that means getting in touch with your eye doctor immediately.

The good news is that often treatment is not necessary. But if treatment is needed, there are several options designed to reduce lost vision. You and your doctor will decide between prescription medication, laser treatments or more invasive surgery.

Remember the key to a successful treatment is to catch any problems early. Schedule yearly (or more frequent) visits to your eye doctor. This will help you discover if you have a problem soon enough to keep your diabetic retinopathy from becoming too severe.

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