The retina is the layer of the bottom of the eye that receives the luminous stimuli and perceives the images that will be sent to our brain. As in other chronic complications of diabetes mellitus, the presence of elevated blood glucose levels for many years causes alterations in the blood vessels of the retina that cause damage to this important eye tissue.
These vascular alterations make it difficult to supply oxygen to the retina, in which microneurysms, bleeding, as well as lipid and protein leakage from within damaged capillaries occur. This occurs primarily when diabetes is not properly controlled and is called diabetic retinopathy.
These changes are progressive and the lack of oxygenation of the retina stimulates the growth of more vessels that try to fill the deficit of blood supply. The appearance of these new vessels (a phase called proliferating diabetic retinopathy) can cause irreversible damage to the retina.
On the other hand, damage to the capillaries of the central part of the retina, the macula, can cause a leak of fluid into the retinal tissue (diabetic macular oedema) that leads to significant decrease in the patient’s vision.
Therefore, the key to the management of diabetic retinopathy is an early diagnosis, since treatment is effective in the early stages, and significant complications can be prevented. For this reason, periodic reviews are critical.
What are the usual symptoms?
Changes in diabetic retinopathy do not usually initially affect the central portion of the retina (the macula) and therefore do not result in a decrease in visual acuity, going unnoticed by the patient.
Conversely, in cases where macular oedema develops, the patient experiences a significant decrease in vision as well as distortion of images.
Diabetic retinopathy can evolve over years without being detected by its carrier, and even present at the time of diabetes diagnosis. That’s why specialized regulated follow-up is the only way to detect and treat your complications early.
The most common symptoms are:
Asymptomatic in early stages.
Decreased visual acuity.
Distortion of images.