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Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment in Pittsburgh, PA

If you are one of the 29.1 million people living with diabetes, eye care is an extremely important part of your treatment and management plan. People with diabetes are especially at risk of suffering from diabetic eye diseases, particularly diabetic retinopathy. It is a slow-acting condition that damages the retina of the eye; as a result, diabetic retinopathy usually affects patients who have lived with diabetes for many years. Without treatment, the cumulative damage from diabetic retinopathy may result in blindness.

Early detection is critical to protecting you against vision loss. At Everett & Hurite, our expert ophthalmologists and eye care professionals offer comprehensive diagnostic services and treatment for all eye conditions, including diabetic retinopathy by creating customized treatment plans that fit your unique needs. If you live in the tri-state area and have diabetes, it is time to call our office or schedule an appointment online for your vision exam.

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Diabetic Retinopathy

Frequently Asked Question

How does diabetic retinopathy cause vision loss?

The retina is the innermost part of your eyes that is made up of a light-sensitive layer, or coat of shell tissue. It detects light and transmits that signal to the brain to facilitate sight. Diabetes affects the body’s ability to use and store sugar, and without proper management, sugar levels in the bloodstream elevate. These higher sugar levels can ultimately cause damage to our blood vessels, as they can weaken the walls of the blood vessels. 

Since our eyes and retina rely on a healthy blood supply to function, any damage to the blood vessels within them can affect our vision. Weakened blood vessels often leak blood or a fatty fluid into the retina area, resulting in swelling or vision problems within the eye. Since the retina detects light and converts it into signals that are sent through the optic nerve to the brain - where said light is translated by the brain into an image for us to process - any damage or interference with it is likely to at least result in some distortion of vision, if not full-on blindness.

What are the effects of diabetic retinopathy on my eyes?

If you are dealing with diabetic retinopathy, you are likely to suffer a range of complications. Some examples of the effects on vision include:

  • Swelling of the macula: The macula is a specific spot within the retina that helps our eyes create sharp images in our central field of vision; any damage to the macula is likely to create vision problems. In diabetics, as the blood vessels leak fluid, the macula begins to swell. This swelling effect has its own name: Diabetic macular edema (DME).
  • Vitreous Hemorrhage: Sometimes diabetics grow extra blood vessels which are particularly weak. In many cases, these weakened vessels leak. If the leaks and fluid build-up grows severe enough, this will cause a sudden loss of vision or create lots of new floaters.
  • Loss of vision: Complete loss of vision is a possible side effect from advanced diabetic retinopathy, as by this stage scar tissue and long-term weakening of the blood vessels may result in a full retinal detachment.

What are the stages of diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy has four progressive stages. In the mild stage, microaneurysms (small areas of swelling) can leak fluid to your retina. As diabetic retinopathy progresses during the moderate stage, blood vessels swell and change its shape, which prevents them to carry blood efficiently. In the severe stage, there the blood vessels get blocked within the eye, leading to the blockage of growth factor secretion that initiates new blood vessel development. When diabetic retinopathy reaches the proliferative stage, your body compensates and grows new blood vessels inside the retina and the vitreous gel. These new blood vessels fills the retina and can leak and bleed, and scar tissue may also aggregate, which could lead to retinal detachment. 

Am I at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy?

You have an elevated risk of diabetic retinopathy development if you have type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes. About 45% of people with diabetes are in some stage of the diabetic retinopathy, even if they show no symptoms. As the early stages of diabetic retinopathy are often asymptomatic, it is critical that people with diabetes go through routine eye exams and focus on improving their overall healthcare approach. Even when you don’t have diabetic retinopathy, the fluctuating blood sugar levels can affect your vision. It can impact the shape of your eye’s lens and cause blurry vision. This blurred vision might return back to normal, after the sugar levels in your blood stabilizes, so having a good control of your blood sugar could help reduce intermittent episodes of blurred vision.

What are the treatment options for diabetic retinopathy?

Our ophthalmologists at Everett & Hurite can help you determine the best course of treatment and design customized care plans to maintain a healthy vision. Depending on your unique physiology and the severity of the condition, our eye care professionals can offer you with a wide array of treatment options.

They may involve the injection of anti-VEGF drugs, to block the vascular endothelial growth factor, and reduce the volume of fluid in your retina. This is done to reverse the aberrant growth of blood vessels within the retina. They may also recommend the focal/grid macular laser surgery, which entails the use of targeted beams of light to destroy portions of your blood vessels. This laser surgery is often coupled with anti-VEGF drug therapy to achieve optimal results.

In some critical cases, corticosteroid injections can help suppress diabetic retinopathy. However, this approach can increase your risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma, so it might not a good fit for everyone. In cases with sustained and severe bleeding into the vitreous gel, our doctors may also recommend the surgical removal of your vitreous gel through a process called the vitrectomy.

How can I prevent diabetic retinopathy? 

The good news is that with proper detection and treatment, patients are unlikely to suffer from permanent effects of diabetic retinopathy. There are several things that can be done to prevent and address diabetic retinopathy:

  • If possible, a patient should take steps to minimize their risk of developing diabetes.
  • If you are already living with the condition, you should report this to your eye doctor immediately, and should also make sure you never miss an annual eye exam. Comprehensive eye exams are the only way you can be sure that any early signs of diabetic retinopathy will be caught and treated. Remember, the condition does not always present with initial symptoms. Only by scheduling an eye exam will you ensure that your doctor diagnoses the problem before irreversible damage sets in.
  • Properly working with your primary care doctor to manage your diabetes and glucose levels through exercise, proper diet, and medications (if necessary) will also help in minimizing the effects or development of diabetic retinopathy. The tighter the control of your blood sugar, the lower your risk of severe complications and blindness will be.

To schedule a comprehensive eye exam and protect your eyes from vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy, call or schedule an appointment online today with one of our ophthalmologists, in any of our 10 offices conveniently located near you.