Diabetes Mellitus involves blood vessels throughout the body, particularly in the retina. Damage to retinal blood vessels is called diabetic retinopathy. There are two main types of diabetic retinopathy. The first is called 'background retinopathy' and consists of leaky blood vessels and potential swelling of the retina, resulting in blurry vision. The second is called 'proliferative retinopathy' and is more advanced. In proliferative retinopathy, abnormal blood vessels form that may cause profound blurry vision by bleeding, scarring, or retinal detachment.
The longer one has diabetes, the higher the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Approximately 80% of people who have diabetes for 15 years or more have some damage to their retinal vessels. This risk of developing diabetic retina problems is greatly reduced with good blood glucose control. Controlling the blood sugars entails a healthy diet, exercise as possible, regularly using medication as prescribed, and close follow-up with the managing primary care or diabetic doctor. Good communication between the eye doctor and a diabetic doctor is important.
Regular dilated exams are critical to the eye health of diabetics. Yearly exams are recommended unless diabetic retina changes require more frequent exams. In cases where treatment is necessary, the laser is typically initially indicated. More advanced disease may require surgical care. For advanced diabetic disease, Nashua Eye provides services from fellowship-trained retina specialists.