If you suffer from diabetes, your body struggles to both store and process sugars. Even if your sugar levels are adequately managed, the blood vessels in your eye are still susceptible to damage and at risk of developing a condition known as diabetic retinopathy.
Statistically, individuals with diabetes are up to 25 times more likely to develop severe and permanent vision loss than those without the disease. If you suffer from diabetes, please contact Kirk Eye Center today by completing the form on this page or calling 970-669-1107 to schedule a consultation with Dr. John Kirk. We welcome patients from Loveland, Fort Collins, Windsor and throughout Northern Colorado.
What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is a condition in which high blood sugar levels damage retinal blood vessels, harming the retina and causing loss of vision.
Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) is the early stage of the condition and can occur at any time following the onset of diabetes. In this stage, the tiny blood vessels in the back of the eye expand, forming pockets that damage the retina. Although visual symptoms are seldom present, an examination can identify small hemorrhages known as microaneurysms.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) occurs when weakened retinal blood vessels close off and new blood vessels are created. The new blood vessels scar the retina. Compared to other diabetic eye diseases, PDR holds the greatest risk of vision loss and is the primary cause of blindness in working-age adults.
Risk Factors for Diabetic Retinopathy
Your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy increases the longer you have had diabetes and the less you manage your blood sugar levels.
You can also be at higher risk for the condition if you:
- Have high cholesterol
- Use tobacco
- Have high blood pressure
- Are pregnant
While long-term diabetes and fluctuating blood sugar levels increase the risk for diabetic retinopathy, not all diabetics will develop the disease. In addition to attentively managing your diabetes, it is important to visit with an experienced ophthalmologist and establish an examination schedule appropriate to your unique situation.
Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
The early stages of diabetic retinopathy can be nearly undetectable. Symptoms can include:
- Double vision
- Difficulty reading or performing close-up tasks
- Eye floaters and spots
- Eye pain or discomfort
- Distorted or blurry vision
- Involuntary eye movement
- Development of a shadow effect in your field of view
During your eye exam at Kirk Eye Center, Dr. Kirk will look for other retinal damage, such as retinal swelling or leakage from blood vessels.
Treating Diabetic Retinopathy
The most effective treatment for diabetic retinopathy is prevention. This is why it is important to catch the condition in its early stages. Early detection can help most people avoid blindness through early intervention. If you are diabetic, it is often a good idea to receive a thorough eye exam at least once a year. During your initial visit with Dr. Kirk, he will assess your ocular health and recommend a plan that is right for you.
Kirk Eye Center can address your diabetic retinopathy with treatments such as:
- Injected medication: These can include Lucentis, Eylea and Avastin.
- Vitrectomy: This treatment removes the vitreous gel from the eye that has been contaminated with blood or is affecting the retina. This gel is then replaced with a clear fluid.
- Laser retina treatment: A comfortable procedure which seals leaking blood vessels and eliminates abnormal blood vessels.
You can also practice self care by:
- Closely following your doctor’s advice and recommendations
- Maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise routine
- Monitoring your blood sugar and blood pressure to keep both under control
It’s important to manage any related conditions, such as hypertension to get the best results. Dr. Kirk regularly communicates with patients’ primary care doctors to ensure other related conditions are under control.
If you are diabetic, don’t postpone your eye care until it is too late. Schedule your diabetic retinopathy treatment today by contacting Kirk Eye Center online or at 970-669-1107. We proudly serve the Loveland, Fort Collins and Windsor areas of Northern Colorado.