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Diabetic Retinopathy

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic Retinopathy (abbreviated to DRP) is a complication caused by diabetes, affecting the retina (the light-sensitive ‘screen’ at the back of the eye).

Diabetes causes abnormal fluctuations in the blood sugar levels of a human body. High levels of blood sugars can alter the supply of blood to all organs in the body, including the supply to the eyes. Damage to the eyes occurs when high amounts of blood sugar build up in the blood vessels of the retina.

Being told that vision is affected by Diabetic Retinopathy can turn the world upside down. When the first emotions subside, the knowledge that one is not alone may provide support. There are many people in the same situation, some who have just been diagnosed themselves and some who have been living with DRP for years.

Many people with DRP continue to do the things they have always done. People may use peripheral vision more and use other senses more during the day.

There is currently no cure for DRP. Regular eye checks are very important to detect DRP early and therefore treat it as best as possible. Discuss this with the eye specialist to see what options are available.

If one experiences visual impairment as a result of DRP, there are devices available who can help with the tasks one has difficulty with. These aids can provide support with tasks that require vision and can help you continue to lead a full and independent life.

DRP has four stages:

1. Mild non-proliferative DRP

Micro aneurysms occur in this first phase. These are small areas of balloon-like swellings in the small blood vessels of the retina.

2. Moderate nonproliferative DRP

As the disease progresses, some of the blood vessels that supply the retina become blocked.

3. Advanced non-proliferative DRP

Many more blood vessels become blocked, causing large areas of the retina to no longer receive blood supply. These areas send a signal to the body to create new blood vessels.

4. Proliferative DRP

In this advanced stage, new blood vessels are actually created. These blood vessels are fragile and fragile. They grow along the retina and along the surface of the clear, glassy gel lining the inside of the eye. In themselves, these blood vessels do not cause any problems. However, they have thin and brittle walls. If these blood vessels leak blood, this can cause serious vision loss and sometimes even blindness.

Left untreated, DRP can lead to blindness. 80% of people who have suffered from diabetes for more than 10 years experience DRP. Of these cases, 90% can be reduced by proper treatment and regular eye checks.

Image view without and with Diabetic retinopathy
Left: normal vision. Right: view with Diabetic Retinopathy

What are the symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy?

Symptoms that occur with DRP include:

What can one expect from Diabetic Retinopathy?

There is no cure for DRP. However, there are various treatments available that can reduce symptoms. The best way to manage DRP is regular eye examinations. If you have diabetes, it is wise to have regular eye tests to check whether you are developing DRP. Discuss this with your doctor or eye specialist.

Learn more about Diabetic Retinopathy

Extensive information is available about DRP. This information is intended to inform you about the most important aspects of this eye condition and is not intended to replace the information one receives from the doctor or eye specialist.

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