Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetic Eye Disease Treatment in Hermitage & Greenville, PA

Mercer County Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment Specialists

The Valley Eye Center – with locations in both Hermitage and Greenville, PA – is one of the region’s most trusted care providers for diabetic eye disease.

Diabetes is the leading cause of irreversible adult blindness in the United States. It’s also the most common cause of blindness in people under the age of 65. Over 20 million people in the United States have diabetes.

Even scarier, one third aren’t even aware they have the disease and 40% of U.S. adults aged 40-74 are considered to be “pre-diabetic” per recent changes to diabetes guidelines.

The correlation between diabetes and eye disease necessitates a need for diabetics to undergo a thorough eye exam every six to twelve months. Severe diabetes may require an examination every two to three months.

During the eye examination, pupils are dilated with eye drops and the Hermitage and Greenville eye doctors at Valley Eye Center will carefully examine the eyes to detect or assess damage. It’s very important to alert your eye doctor of any worsening vision problems like blurred vision, increased floaters, and other changes to your eyesight.

What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?

The most common diabetic eye disease is diabetic retinopathy. This condition is brought on by damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina. The retina is a group of cells responsible for converting the light that enters through the lens into images. A healthy retina is needed for good vision.

In the beginning, diabetic retinopathy may be asymptomatic or cause only the mildest of vision problems. But progressive sight-threatening damage to the retina can occur if ignored. The vessels may leak blood and other fluids resulting in retinal tissue swelling and cloudy vision. Both eyes are typically affected.

The longer someone has diabetes, the more likely they are to develop diabetic retinopathy. Symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Increased spots or floaters
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • A dark spot in the center of your vision

Diabetic retinopathy is classified into two primary types:

Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR) – NPDR is the earliest stage of the disease where symptoms range from non-existent to mild. The retina’s blood vessels weaken causing tiny bulges, known as micro-aneurysms, to protrude from the walls. Fluid can leak into the retina from these microaneurysms leading to swelling of the macula which is responsible for detailed central vision.

Mild NPDR with blurred vision may be present at the time of a diabetes diagnosis. The good news is this condition can often be reversed within weeks to months of insulin therapy and controlled blood sugar.

Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR) – The more advanced form of the disease is PDR. The retina becomes oxygen deprived due to diabetes-induced circulation problems. This results in the growth of new fragile blood vessels in the retina through the vitreous – a thick, transparent substance filling the center of the eye.

Vision becomes cloudy when these new vessels start to leak blood into the vitreous. Scar tissue can also form and lead to a detached retina. Glaucoma is another complication of PDR due to high intraocular pressure in the eye progressively damaging the optic nerve. Untreated glaucoma can cause irreversible vision loss or even permanent blindness.

Preventing Diabetic Eye Problems

Regular eye exams are critical when it comes to preventing the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

Anyone with type 1 diabetes is encouraged to undergo a dilated eye exam within 3 to 5 years of diagnosis.

Type 2 diabetics should have a dilated eye exam shortly after diagnosis.

Diabetic women considering pregnancy should have an eye exam before and during pregnancy.

Additionally, diabetics must work to stay healthy and control blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Smoking cessation is also encouraged.

Not tending to these risk factors can worsen the occluded vessels and lead to continued new vessels forming in the orbit of the eye, worsening vision, and other complications such as scar tissue formation and retinal detachment.

How to Treat Diabetic Eye Problems

Proliferative retinopathy may require laser surgery treatment. Laser photocoagulation, where a beam of light focuses on the retina to stop the formation of new blood vessels, shrink any new vessels present, and seal leaky blood vessels causing edema or swelling of the macula, can help prevent further vision loss and reduce the risk of blindness. Vision that has already been lost cannot be restored. But further vision loss can be prevented.

Laser treatment is an outpatient procedure that isn’t painful but may cause some temporary discomfort.

Vitrectomy surgery is another option for serious instances of diabetic eye damage where a hemorrhage has already occurred resulting in vision loss or scar tissue is threatening retinal detachment. Performed under local or general anesthesia, a tiny incision in the eye allows for the use of a small instrument to remove the vitreous gel clouded with blood. A salt solution is then added to replace the original vitreous gel.

A vitrectomy is typically an outpatient procedure where patients can return home shortly afterwards. An eye patch may have to be worn for a few days for protection. Eye drops will also be needed to thwart off infection.

Schedule an Appointment Today

The Valley Eye Center can screen for and treat diabetic eye problems at our Hermitage and Greenville eye care centers. Since proliferative retinopathy and macular edema can develop without noticeable symptoms, early detection is critical. Only an eye care professional can determine if you have either condition.

DO NOT WAIT FOR SYMPTOMS!

Anyone diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy will also need to stay on top of his or her condition with regular thorough eye exams where the eyes are dilated. Treatment and follow-up care can reduce the risk of blindness by as much as 95 percent in those with proliferative retinopathy.

Contact us today at (724) 347-5665 to schedule an appointment at either our Hermitage or Greenville office.