Too much sugar circulating in the bloodstream for a prolonged period damages a number of organs in the body including the eyes. Diabetic retinopathy is a serious complication in diabetes patients that affects the retina or the part of the eye sensitive to light. Both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes patients are vulnerable to diabetic retinopathy.
This condition is more likely to develop in diabetics who cannot keep their blood sugar levels under control. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the tiny blood vessels supplying blood to the retina are damaged by blood sugar. Excess sugar in the blood, blocks the blood vessels, obstructing blood supply to the retina. As more and more retinal blood vessels become damaged, diabetics experience vision loss.
To compensate slow down in blood supply to the retina, new blood vessels develop in the eyes. However, these poorly developed blood vessels are vulnerable to leakage, which aggravates vision problems. The leaking and damaged blood vessels may form scar tissues that pull the retina, leading to retinal detachment. To make matters worse for diabetic retinopathy patients, symptoms rarely appear at the early stage of the disease. Only at the advanced stage, you will notice vision problems.
Signs & Symptoms Of Diabetic Retinopathy
Blurring of vision is a common symptom of diabetic retinopathy. It is a sign of macular edema that occurs at the early stage of diabetic retinopathy. This stage is also known as nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy. At this stage of retinopathy, the walls of the blood vessels supplying nourishment to the retina are severely weakened.
Balloon-like swellings called microaneurysms develop on the walls. Fluid and blood may leak from the swelling into the retina. This stage of diabetic retinopathy is called mild non-proliferative retinopathy. As the condition progresses, the small retinal blood vessels are blocked.
This stage of diabetic retinopathy is called moderate nonproliferative retinopathy. Severe nonproliferative retinopathy develops when the larger blood vessels and the nerve fibers in the retina swell. Macula, the central part of the retina associated with the sharp central vision, also swells, leading to blurred vision.
Dark Spots Floating In The Vision
In most cases, diabetics who have avoided regular eye checkups are more likely to visit the ophthalmologist when they see spots or dark strings floating in their vision. The floaters in the eyes are signs of hemorrhage. It is usually a sign of proliferative retinopathy. At this stage, new blood vessels develop in the retina.
The fragile and abnormal blood vessels bleed into the eye, blocking portions of vision. In some cases, the floaters clear naturally without treatment. However, they may recur, resulting in more serious vision problems. Frequently the hemorrhage occurs during sleep. If you wake up with floaters in the vision, seek professional help as early as possible. Prompt medical intervention helps to prevent further bleeding.
The new blood vessels leaking fluid and blood may inhibit the normal drainage of the fluid from the eyes. As a result, pressure in the eyeball increases, causing glaucoma. Severe vision loss or blindness occurs when too much pressure in the eye damages the optic nerve.
Other symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include fluctuating vision, empty or dark areas in visionand poor color perception.