Retinopathy is damage to the eye. It affects the thin layer of tissue in the back of the eye called the retina. Diabetic retinopathy is damage to the blood vessels in the retina caused by Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.
There are 2 types of diabetic retinopathy:
Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy—fluid from weakened blood vessels leak into the retina. It causes swelling and limits vision to area right in front of you.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy—new blood vessels form in the retina and back of the eye. It can cause leaking and cloudy vision. I may also cause a detachment of the retina.
Diabetes causes high levels of glucose in the blood. Over time, this excess glucose can cause damage to small blood vessels throughout the body. The blood vessels in the retina are sensitive to this type of damage.
High glucose can also cause swelling and leaking in the blood vessels of the retina. Some vessels may close off. The damaged blood vessels may then be replaced with weaker blood vessels that also bleed into the eye or create scarring. The bleeding, swelling, and scarring build up and weaken or interfere with vision.
Early stages of the disease may not need treatment. However, it is important to manage of blood glucose, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure to slow or stop more damage. Your eye doctor will monitor your condition.
If treatment for the eye is needed, options include:
Medicine to reduce the damage to the eye may include:
Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (Anti-VEGF)—injected into the eye to improve oxygen levels in the retina tissue
Steroid—injected into the eye to slow inflammation and damage
Surgery may be needed to help slow or stop the progression of retinopathy. Options may include:
Laser treatment—to shrink abnormal blood vessels or to stop or slow leaks
Vitrectomy—blood vessels and/or scar tissue are removed from the middle of the eye and replaced with a clear solution