• 19 JAN 15

    Diabetic Retinopathy

    Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease caused by changes in the retinal blood vessels.

    In diabetic retinopathy, the retinal blood vessels may swell and leak in some patients, while in others new vessels can grow on the surface of the retina too, resulting in loss of light sensitivity of retina, affecting vision.

    Diabetic Retinopathy

    Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy

    There are four stages of diabetic retinopathy

    • Mild Non-proliferative Retinopathy
    • Moderate Non-proliferative Retinopathy
    • Severe Non-proliferative Retinopathy
    • Proliferative Retinopathy


    Causes and Risk Factors of Diabetic Retinopathy

    As the name indicates, people with diabetes (both type 1 and type 2) are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Therefore anyone with diabetes should be vigilant about any vision related changes and issues and get a detailed eye examination regularly every year at least.

    Pregnancy can precipitate the diabetic retinopathy therefore pregnant diabetic women are advised to undergo eye examinations in each trimester.

    People with Down’s syndrome having 3 copies of chromosome 21 almost NEVER acquire diabetic retinopathy! This is believed to be due to elevated endostatin levels which is an anti-angiogenic protein derived from a collagen located on chromosome 21.

    Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

    Diabetic retinopathy is asymptomatic in initial stage. In later stages however, patients might experience visual disturbances.

    Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy (complains of patient) might include:

    • Fluctuating vision
    • Floaters and spots in the eye
    • Blurring of vision
    • Difficulty seeing at night

    Signs of diabetic retinopathy include:

    • Micro-aneurysms
    • Dot and blot hemorrhages
    • Splinter hemorrhages (flame-shaped hemorrhages)
    • Retina edema and hard exudates
    • Cotton –wool spots
    • Venous loops and venous beading
    • Intra-retinal micro-vascular abnormalities
    • Macular edema


    Diagnosing diabetic retinopathy

    If you experience any of the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy consult your eye specialist as soon as possible to have a comprehensive eye examination. Your doctor should take a detailed history, including family history, and do various tests at your eye examination. Some tests include visual acuity and viewing your retina directly.

    Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy

    There are three major and effective managements for slowing down the progress of diabetic retinopathy:

    • Laser procedures including:
      • Laser photocoagulation
      • Modified Grid Laser photocoagulation
      • Panretinal photocoagulation
    • Medicine injected into the eye
      • Triamcinolone (steroid) injection into the eye
      • Anti-VEGF injection into the eye
    • Vitrectomy


    Note that the above mentioned options simply slow down the progress of disease or may even stop it, but they don’t treat the damage already occurred and can’t reverse it. There are certain other treatments that seem promising but are under trial and development phases.

    • Eyeglasses
      • Customized Optical Systems with Rx
        • Telescope Glasses for diabetic retinopathy
        • Microscope Glasses for diabetic retinopathy
      • Using prism based lenses in glasses for magnification
      • Antiglare glasses
      • Anti-reflective glasses
      • High contrast glasses
    • Magnification Devices
      • Handheld magnifiers
      • Stand magnifiers
      • LED magnifiers
      • Digital magnifiers
    • House and life style changes
      • Using larger print books
      • Contrast on stair steps
      • Simple arrangement of furniture
      • Non slippery floor and rugs
      • Contrast on doors, windows, buttons
      • Large screen television or monitors


    If you or a loved one has vision loss due to Diabetic Retinopathy,

    Low Vision Specialists of Maryland and Virginia serving the following areas since 1975:

    MARYLAND: Annapolis, Baltimore, Bel Air, Bowie, Carney, Cockeysville, Crofton, Elkton, Essex, Fallston, Fredrick, Glenwood, Hampstead, Havre De Grace, Jarrettsville, Kingsville, Laurel, Lutherville, Manchester, Monkton, Parkton, Parkville, Phoenix, Pikesville, Randallstown, Reisterstown, Severn, Severna Park, Silver Spring, Sparks-Glencoe, Sparrows Point, Towson, Westminster, and Perry Hall
    PENNSYLVANIA: Harrisburg, Hershey, Middleton,  Shrewsbury,  and York.
    VIRGINIA:  Alexandria, Fairfax, Tysons Corner, and Vienna