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Diabetic Retinopathy: Frightening, but Controllable

Slide show of optical disordersView a slide showabout diabetic retinopathy

Diabetes is a disorder in which your body does not use and store sugar properly. Over a period of time, high blood sugar levels cause damage to the sight sensitive inner lining of the eye called the retina.

The retina contains delicate blood vessels called capillaries. When left unchecked and untreated, diabetes causes these capillaries to break down, allowing for seepage of fluid into the retina. This fluid results in swelling and loss of vision. In addition, some of these small blood vessels may completely stop functioning, cutting off the oxygen supply to portions of the retina. These areas of the retina then cease to function.

In the body’s attempt to repair the problem, the retina creates new blood vessels, a process called neovascularization. Unfortunately, these new blood vessels are fragile and prone to bleeding. This bleeding becomes so intense at times that it can fill the eye and block out all vision. It can also lead to other complications, such as neovascular glaucoma, a disease that damages the optic nerve (the pathway from your eye to your brain).

This cycle of events describes a disease known as diabetic retinopathy.

Early Diagnosis and Treatment the Key to Controlling Diabetic Retinopathy

Fortunately, with early diagnosis and treatment, you can control and limit the damage caused by diabetic retinopathy and other diabetes-related eye problems.

Early diagnosis is critical. A special photographic study of the retina — a fluorescein angiogram — can identify any problematic blood vessels in your retina. This exam entails a painless injection of a special dye in your arm followed by a series of photographs taken by a sophisticated camera.

With the knowledge gained from the fluorescein angiogram, you can then plan a comprehensive course of treatment, including the use of laser therapy to stop any retinal bleeding and preserve your vision. Many retina specialists, including Dr. Squillante, perform all such treatment in their office, making a hospital visit unnecessary.

In advanced and severe cases, the eye may contain a significant amount of blood blocking vision, requiring a procedure called a vitrectomy. Performed in a hospital, a vitrectomy involves removing the bloody vitreous gel of the eye and replacing it with clear fluid to reestablish the retina’s ability to see.

No Substitute for Annual Checkups by a Retina Specialist

General ophthalmologists do not typically perform fluorescein angiograms. Only a retina specialist like Dr. Squillante has the training and experience to catch diabetic retinopathy before it becomes serious and begins to impair your vision.

The information above and in our slide show may seem frightening, but it underscores the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. Armed with an understanding of diabetic retinopathy and what you can do to keep it in check, you can live your life free from undue anxiety about your eyesight.

Please don't lose sight of what's important. Schedule your painless and potentially sight-saving retinal exam today.