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Diabetic Retinopathy in Champaign, IL
If you suffer from diabetes, you know it leaves you prone to developing many complications. One of the most serious is diabetic retinopathy, which in its early stages may exhibit no symptoms whatsoever. But over time, and especially if left untreated, it can lead to blindness. Since people who have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes are at risk of diabetic retinopathy in Champaign, IL, here are some key points that you may want to remember.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Specifically, diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that occurs when blood vessels at the back of your eye, meaning at your retina, become damaged. When this happens, the light-sensitive tissue in and around your retina becomes damaged, leading to more and more vision loss over time. Your eye doctor in Champaign, IL can screen for developing diabetic retinopathy. It’s helpful if you let your eye doctor know if you are suffering from diabetes so they can be on the alert for developing diabetic retinopathy.
What Causes Diabetic Retinopathy?
The primary cause of diabetic retinopathy is uncontrolled diabetes, which is related to blood sugar and insulin production. If your blood sugar is poorly controlled, this can lead to blockage of the small blood vessels to your retina, eventually cutting off the blood supply. Unfortunately, when your eyes attempt to grow new blood vessels, the new vessels may tend to not develop properly, and are more prone to leaking.
What are the Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy?
While you may have no symptoms at all or only a mild vision loss early on, that is likely to change as the condition progresses over time. Eventually, you may start to notice a variety of symptoms, with the most common being blurred or fluctuating vision, dark spots in your vision that are known as floaters, areas of your vision that are almost completely dark, and possibly vision loss. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, consult with your Champaign, IL eye doctor as soon as possible.
What are the Risk Factors of Diabetic Retinopathy?
Unfortunately, anyone stricken with diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy in Champaign, IL. However, your chances may increase if you also have been a diabetic for many years, have blood sugar levels that are hard to control, and have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. In addition, those who use tobacco products regularly are at higher risk, as are Hispanics, Native Americans, and African-Americans. Also, women who develop gestational diabetes when pregnant can also be at risk, and should receive frequent eye exams during their pregnancy.
How is Diabetic Retinopathy Diagnosed?
To diagnose diabetic retinopathy, your eye doctor will rely mainly on a comprehensive eye exam, where your eyes will be dilated to allow your doctor to better see inside your eyes. In looking for unusual signs inside and outside your eye, your eye doctor is likely to use optical coherence tomography, commonly known as OCT. With this test, your doctor can take pictures of your eyes that show cross-sectional images of your retina. By doing so, your eye doctor can determine not only the thickness of your retina, but also if any fluid has leaked into surrounding tissue, which would indicate a problem exists.
Can Diabetic Retinopathy be Cured?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is no. However, if it is detected early and various treatment methods are used, its progression can be slowed down dramatically. For example, if you have early-stage diabetic retinopathy, your primary care doctor and endocrinologist can work with you to help keep your blood sugar under control. Should you have an advanced form of this condition, various laser treatments can be used to either shrink abnormal blood vessels or stop blood and fluid from leaking into your eyes. Since proper treatment is critical to stopping the damage diabetic retinopathy can cause, visiting your eye doctor regularly may in fact help you keep your vision many additional years.
What Complications Can Result from Diabetic Retinopathy?
As abnormal blood vessels try to grow in your retina, serious complications can sometimes develop. These include a vitreous hemorrhage, where blood gets into the center of your eye. Fortunately, the blood usually dissipates within a few weeks or so, resulting in your vision returning to normal unless the retina was damaged. In other situations, you may suffer retinal detachment, which can cause severe vision loss. In the most severe cases, glaucoma or complete blindness may result, especially if you have had problems with poorly-managed blood sugar.
How Can Diabetic Retinopathy be Prevented?
While there is no guarantee you will be able to prevent diabetic retinopathy even under the best of circumstances, there are certain things you can do to decrease your chances of developing the condition. To begin with, do everything possible to manage your diabetes. This should include eating healthy and exercising regularly, monitoring your blood sugar throughout the day, and keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. Also, if you smoke or use other tobacco products, now would be a great time to quit. Finally, if you notice any vision changes that occur suddenly or if your vision starts to gradually become blurry or hazy, pay a visit to your eye doctor as soon as possible.
While diabetic retinopathy is of course serious, the good news is that it does not necessarily have to lead to severe vision loss or blindness. By being proactive in doing all you can to keep your diabetes under control and working closely with your eye doctor in Champaign, IL, you’ll be doing all you can to protect your vision.