Monday, July 28, 2008

Diabetic Retinopathy-What Is It?

By Ned D'Agostino

Diabetic retinopathy is a serious complication that should be of concern to anyone suffering from diabetes. What happens is that your vision is effected in a number of different ways. That's because diabetes can damage the eye's retina. So first let's look at what the retina is if we want to understand how to prevent retinopathy.

Without getting into too much detail, you can think of the retina as a group of nerves in the back of your eyeball. They are like your eye's camera, giving your brain a look at what you are seeing. What retinopahty does is cause problems with this simple process.

The blood vessels that are in the retina are very sensitive. When they split, the fluid that was in the vessels starts to drip into the eye's compound. And when this happens the problems begin.

Frequently the first noticeable change will be what look like and obstruction in your sight. Scar tissue starts to form in your eyeball and all around it. As it progresses, the retina becomes detached, and no longer sits in the position it should.

The problem with diabetics is that high blood sugar levels can trigger all the damage we just pointed out. But there's a bigger problem. Most people won't have any symptoms or notice any changes until the problem becomes severe. That means that by the time you notice a problem, it may be too late to do anything about it. Regular visits to the eye doctor are a must because he can discover the problem early on, and that makes correcting the problem much easier. Diabetics should go to the eye doctor at least once a year.

And even the earliest symptoms should mean a trip to the eye doctor. Look for any changes in your field of vision. Some people will notice what are called "floaters", black or white spots that happen for what seems like no reason. If your vision seems weaker or blurry you may also have diabetic retinopathy. Double vision is another symptom. If you notice any of these, even in a mild form, you should contact your eye doctor immediately.

Catch it early enough and there are several good treatments available. Options include prescription medications, laser surgery or a more invasive surgery. Discuss each of these options with your doctor to determine the best choice for you.

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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