Diabetic retinopathy is retinopathy, caused by complications of diabetes mellitus.
Signs and symptoms
- Microaneurysms: In most cases, these are the earliest clinical abnormality detected. They appear as minute, discrete, circular, dark red spots near to but apparently separate from the retinal vessels .
- Hemorrhages: They characteristically occur in the deeper layers of the retina, are round and regular in shape, and are called 'blot' hemorrhages. In hypertensive patients, superficial flame-shaped hemorrhages may also occur.
- Hard exudates: These are characteristic of diabetic retinopathy . They result from leakage of plasma from abnormal retinal capillaries and can vary in size from tiny specks to large patches.
- Cotton-wool spots: Most often seen in rapidly progressive retinopathy and hypertension, these spots represent arteriolar occlusions.
- Venous beading: Sausage-like dilatation and increased looping of veins indicate widespread capillary nonperfusion.
A patient may initially complain of blurred or fluctuating vision and difficulty in color perception. This may be more evident in one eye than in the other. The patient may then complain of empty or dark areas and floating spots or lines in his vision. In severe form of this condition, the patient may eventually suffer from complete loss of vision.
- Blurred Vision
Both the microaneurysms and the new blood vessels may rupture causing the leakage of blood into the retina and blurred vision. [news-medical.net]
However, bleeding can reoccur and cause severely blurred vision. You need to be examined by your eye care professional at the first sign of blurred vision, before more bleeding occurs. [web.archive.org]
Blurred vision happens for two reasons: with diabetic macular edema, leaky blood vessels cause swelling of the macula, which can lead to blurred vision. with proliferative diabetic retinopathy, fragile new blood vessels on the retina cause bleeding in [diabetes.ie]
Vision symptoms (eg, blurred vision) are indications for ophthalmologic referral. [merckmanuals.com]
- Background Retinopathy
One patient had mild background retinopathy on both eyes, with visual acuity of 1.0 and 0.7 after cataract extraction plus intravitreal triamcinolone injection. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Read more on treating retinopathy Background retinopathy Background retinopathy, also known as simple retinopathy, involves tiny swellings in the walls of the blood vessels. [diabetes.co.uk]
Proliferative retinopathy develops from background retinopathy and is responsible for most of the visual loss in diabetics. In this condition, new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina and optic nerve. [snec.com.sg]
If you are found to have no retinopathy or mild (background) retinopathy, and your vision is not affected, you are likely just to be invited back for screening in 12 months' time. [patient.info]
- Cotton Wool Spots
Cotton-wool spots are areas of microinfarction of the retinal nerve fiber layer that lead to retinal opacification; they are fuzzy-edged and white and obscure underlying vessels. [merckmanuals.com]
Screening for retinopathy is undertaken using conventional color fundus photography and relies on the identification of hemorrhages, vascular abnormalities, exudates, and cotton-wool spots. These can sometimes be difficult to identify. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
This is characterized by increasing hemorrhages and microaneurysms as well as cotton wool spots, VB or IRMA to a mild degree. [reviewofoptometry.com]
Moderate non-proliferative DR Clinical signs: Microaneurysms and other signs (e.g. dot and blot haemorrhages, hard exudates, cotton wool spots). but less than severe nonproliferative DR. What to do: Re-examine in 3-6 months. [futurelearn.com]
- Retinal Hemorrhage
We present the case of an early stage diabetic retinopathy patient presented with retinal hemorrhages in the superior temporal area and disc hemorrhages of disc nasal area. The patient was diagnosed with mild NPDR on fundus examinations. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
The first signs of nonproliferative retinopathy are Capillary microaneurysms Dot and blot retinal hemorrhages Hard exudates Cotton-wool spots (soft exudates) Hard exudates are discrete, yellow particles within the retina. [merckmanuals.com]
Moderate-to-severe retinal hemorrhages and/or MA’s Patients were excluded if they had undergone previous PRP or had a macula-threatening TRD. [bu.edu]
Fig. 1 A photograph of a normal retina Fig. 2 Photograph of a retina showing proliferative retinopathy – (v) growth of new unnatural blood vessels, (h) retinal hemorrhage. [betterhealth.vic.gov.au]
- Macula Edema
The swelling in the macula (edema), can be caused by a few leaking vessels or many scattered throughout the macula. This may cause slight to very severe blurring of vision. [arleoeye.com]
When the macula swells with fluid, a condition called macula edema, vision blurs and can be lost entirely. [thevisioncarecenter.com]
Macula edema is noted when areas of your retina are shown to contain spaces filled with fluid. Treatment and Drugs In mild cases, treatment for diabetic retinopathy is not necessary. [umkelloggeye.org]
During the stages of mild and moderate non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, no treatment is needed unless macula edema is present. [rgw.com]
edema” when it is centrally located, and “non-center involving edema” when the center of the macula is spared. [reviewofoptometry.com]
Workup includes a complete history and physical examination. The following tests should be conducted:
- Complete blood count
- Resting blood sugar
- Fasting blood sugar
- HbA1c levels
- Liver function tests
- Fluorescein angiography: This is a test in which pupils are dilated and photographs of the vessels are taken. Then a radiocontrast dye is injected and photographs are taken again once the dye has perfused to all eye vessels.
- Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT): OCT provides us with cross-sectional images of the retina which help in both identifying retinal thickening if any, as well as monitoring the progress of treatment.
- B-scan Ultrasonography may also be done.
Multiple doses of intravitreal injections of anti-VEGF drugs such as bevacizumab show good results . Similar drugs like Ranibizumab and a corticosteroid Triamcinolone may also be given.
In cases of nonproliferative DR, laser photocoagulation may be used to treat macular edema due to vascular leakage.
In patients with proliferative diabetic retinopathy, pan-retinal photocoagulation is used to spare the macular area and treat the entire diseased retina.
This procedure may be used in some patients with proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
Blood sugar level control
This is the primary mode of controlling the progression of retinopathy. By bringing blood glucose to normal levels, edema and other such conditions involved in diabetic retinopathy can be lessened.
The longer a person has diabetes, the higher his chances of developing diabetic retinopathy . If a person has been diagnosed early, he would have well-defined leakage and good perifoveal perfusion. His vision loss would be mild and exudates would be minimal. In such cases, the prognosis is favorable as with the right control and treatment, the progression of the disease may be halted.
Complications include all the factors that may worsen the ischemic state of the eye such as:
As the name indicates, the primary cause of diabetic retinopathy is diabetes. In type I diabetes mellitus, the chances of developing this condition are comparatively less. In patients with type II diabetes mellitus, however, the incidence of this condition is directly proportional to disease duration.
Other causes include hypertension and hyperlipidemia which may exacerbate preexisting diabetes and increase the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Studies reveal that pregnant women that have this condition have a 4-5% chance of progression to a more severe stage.
Diabetes is responsible for approximately 8000 eyes becoming blinded each year, meaning diabetes is responsible for 12% of blindness .
A recent estimate of the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in the US showed a high prevalence of 28.5% among those with diabetes aged 40 years or older . Clearly the longer a person has diabetes, i.e the older a person is, the more likely he is of developing retinopathy.
The retinal vasculopathy of diabetes mellitus can be classified into the background (pre-profilerative) diabetic retinopathy and proliferative diabetic retinopathy .
Pre-proliferative diabetic retinopathy
Hyperglycaemia induced intramural pericyte death and thickening of the basement membrane leads to vascular wall incompetence. These damages change the formation of the blood-retinal barrier and also make the retinal blood vessels more permeable . Smaller vessels may occlude and the weakened walls of the larger vessels may dilate. As a result, microaneurysms and macular edema occur.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy
Retinal ischemia can result in the up-regulation of pro-angiogenesis factors such as VEGF and lead to retinal angiogenesis . Retinal neovascularization may be accompanied by the development of a neovascular membrane on the iris surface, presumable secondary to increased levels of VEGF in the aqueous humor . Gradually, scar tissue develops which may cause retinal detachment and/or build up of intraorbital pressure leading to glaucoma and optic nerve damage.
The most common and potentially most blinding of these complications, however, is diabetic retinopathy (DR) . In this condition, a person's retinal vessels suffer ischemia and damage due to high blood glucose levels resulting in visual loss and in the worst case - blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of long-standing, and often uncontrolled, diabetes mellitus. It is caused due to raised glucose levels in the blood which damage the blood vessels of the eyes, leading to first blurred vision and finally blindness. If you are diabetic and feel that your visual power has decreased, you should schedule a consultation with an eye specialist immediately.