What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition related to diabetes. In diabetes, the body ceases to properly handle sugar and the sugar levels in the blood rise. When sugar molecules rise they can affect many areas of the body, including the kidneys, nerves and the retina. In the eye, small areas of vessel wall weakness - called aneurysms - can form, bleeding can occur or fragile new blood vessels can grow. In advanced cases permanent visual loss and blindness can occur.
In a high sugar environment (which happens with diabetes), the sugar molecules can interrupt the regular workings of the body. At the back of the eye, this can cause the blood vessel walls behind the retina to become damaged.
One form of progression of Diabetic Retinopathy is the onset of Diabetic Macular Edema, also known as retinal swelling. In this condition, blood vessel walls are so weakened that they burst, leaking blood into the retina layer at the back of the eye.
Another form of progression of Diabetic retinopathy is that blood vessels might shrivel up, cutting off blood supply to the back of the eye. This is called Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy. When this happens, new, abnormal blood vessels will form in an effort to compensate. These new blood vessels can damage the retina, and are prone to leaking blood into the back of the eye.
How is Diabetic Retinopathy treated?
Diabetic macular edema can be treated in different ways, depending on the severity and the progression of the disease.
One of the treatments is with laser surgery. In this procedure a laser beam is used to patch up areas of the retina where there are leaky blood vessels. This helps to slow the leakage of fluid into the retina.
Recent research has shown that eye injections with a molecule that dampens the signal that makes blood vessels leaky is of great benefit for diabetic macular edema. This medication works making vessels less leaky and by stopping the creation of abnormal blood vessels in the back of the eye.