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The Two Different Types of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes can cause many complications to major organ systems, including your eyes. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar damages small blood vessels in your retina, causing them to leak blood and other fluids. 

As a result, the retinal tissue swells and your vision becomes cloudy and blurred. Usually, diabetic retinopathy affects both eyes. If it goes untreated, the condition can lead to blindness. 

A comprehensive eye exam is the only way to find out if your diabetes will cause blindness. Schedule one at least once a year with your provider at Valley Eye Professionals in Los Angeles, California. Early detection is key in successful treatment.

Here’s what you need to know about the two types of diabetic retinopathy. 

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) is diagnosed in the earliest stages of the disease. You may have no symptoms or only very mild vision changes. Your optometrist may detect tiny bulges in the blood vessels in your retinas, and you normally don't need treatment.

You can take steps at this stage to keep your vision from getting worse. It’s important to work with your diabetes specialist to control your glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Schedule another eye exam within 12 months to evaluate your condition. 

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is an advanced form of the eye disease.  Existing blood vessels in the retina are significantly weakened and, as a result, the retina is deprived of oxygen. Newer, more delicate blood vessels grow, which are more likely to leak fluid and compromise your vision.

Scar tissue can form, leading to glaucoma — a progressive disease that causes damage to the optic nerve and is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide.

Am I at risk?

Diabetes, particularly uncontrolled diabetes, is the primary risk factor for developing diabetic retinopathy. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics are at risk, and the longer you’ve had diabetes, the more vulnerable you are. 

Other medical conditions, like hypertension and high cholesterol, compound your risk. People with a family history of the disease, Hispanics, Blacks, and pregnant women also have an elevated risk.

Can diabetic retinopathy be cured?

Diabetic retinopathy cannot be cured, but its onset and progression can be greatly slowed if your diabetes is well controlled. In the earliest stages of the condition, we watch your vision and progression of the disease to determine if you need treatment.

You may need an injection to prevent the growth of abnormal blood vessels in your eye. We may also recommend laser surgery, steroid injections, or a combination of these treatments. The goal of treatment is to slow progression of the disease and preserve your vision.

The team at Valley Eye Professionals is experienced in diagnosing and treating diabetic vision problems, and we can help with all of your vision needs. Make an appointment today to get your eyes checked. Call the office, or use our online tool to schedule.

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