Diabetic eye diseases refer to a group of eye conditions affecting people with diabetes. They include:
- Diabetic retinopathy, which causes changes to the blood vessels in the retina; it is the major cause leading to blindness among diabetic patients and is the main reason for vision loss in laboring population.
- Diabetic macular edema (DME) is one of the complications of diabetic retinopathy;
- Cataracts: people with diabetes are 5 to 6 times more likely to develop cataracts compared to non-diabetics. Diabetes can lead to early cataract formation in young people as well; and
- Glaucoma: the chance of people developing glaucoma doubles among patients with diabetes compared to people without diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs as a result of damages to small retinal vessels among diabetic patients with prolonged high blood glucose levels. When light is focused on the retina, it is transformed as signals and then transmitted via the optic nerve to the brain. Damaged blood vessels in the retina begin to leak, causing a twisting of the image. For the most serious condition, abnormal new blood vessels proliferate from the surface to retina (called neovascularization), which often results in scar tissue and cell death.
Diabetic retinopathy can be divided into four stages:
- Mild non-proliferative retinopathy: small bulges in retinal capillaries begin to form, which may leak fluid into the retina;
2.Medium non-proliferative retinopathy: as the disease progresses, the blood vessels in the retina may begin to expand and twist. These newly formed vessels may be malformed and unable to transport blood. These two changes of retinal capillaries may lead to macular edema;
3。Severe non-proliferative retinopathy: more vascular obstruction disables the nutrient supply to the retina, and the malfunctioned retina begins to secrete growth factors for it to grow more new vessels
4。Proliferative retinopathy: at this stage the growth factors secreted by the retina activate vascular proliferation along the surface of the retina into the vitreous chamber. These newly formed capillaries are fragile and leak and bleed easily. The accompanying scar tissue from the process of neovascularization shrinks, thus pulling the retina from its normal position causing a retinal detachment, which leads to permanent vision lose.
Diabetic macular edema is the swelling of the macular caused by diabetes. The macular controls delicate visual activities, such as reading, facial recognition and driving which are crucial to central vision. Macular edema is the most common cause of vision loss in diabetic patients. About half of diabetics develop macular edema, which can manifest itself in every stage of diabetic retinopathy.
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