Diabetic Retinopathy

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is diabetic retinopathy?
2. What is the cause of diabetic retinopathy?  
3. What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?
4. What is the treatment for diabetic retinopathy?
5. Will all diabetics develop diabetic retinopathy?
6. Can diabetic retinopathy be prevented?
7. Who is at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy?
8. How does diabetic retinopathy cause vision loss?
9. What is panretinal photocoagulation?
10. What is fluorescein angiography?
11. What is Focal Laser Photocoagulation?

1. What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetes is a disease that affects blood vessels throughout the body, particularly vessels in the kidneys and eyes. When the blood vessels in the eyes are affected, this is called diabetic retinopathy.

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2. What is the cause of diabetic retinopathy?  

Everyone who has diabetes is at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, but not everyone develops it. Changes in blood sugar levels increase the risk. Generally, diabetics don't develop diabetic retinopathy until they've had diabetes for at least 10 years.

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3. What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?

There are usually no symptoms in the early stages, but those who develop it may notice difficulty reading, doing close work, or double vision. They may also notice an increase of “floaters,” specks that seem to levitate about in your field of vision.

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4. What is the treatment for diabetic retinopathy?

During the early stages of diabetic retinopathy no treatment is required. To prevent progression, people with diabetes should control their levels of blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol. In advanced stages, pan-retinal photocoagulation is performed. When this is performed, a laser is used to destroy all of the dead areas of retina where blood vessels have been closed. 

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5. Will all diabetics develop diabetic retinopathy?

No. Everyone who has diabetes is at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, but not everyone develops it. For this reason, it is extremely important for diabetics to get eye exams at least once a year.

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6. Can diabetic retinopathy be prevented?

To help prevent diabetic retinopathy from developing and progressing, people with diabetes should control their levels of blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol.

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7. Who is at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy?

Everyone who has diabetes is at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, but not everyone develops it. For this reason, it is extremely important for people with diabetes to get eye exams at least once a year.

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8. How does diabetic retinopathy cause vision loss?

Vision loss occurs when blood vessels leak fluid or blood and grow scar tissue. This leakage affects the ability of the retina to detect and transmit images to the brain. In addition, the abnormal blood vessels may cause glaucoma or cataracts, which can also cause damage to vision.

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9. What is pan-retinal photocoagulation?

Pan-retinal photocoagulation is a procedure that uses a laser is to destroy all of the dead areas of retina where blood vessels have been closed. When this procedure is done the retina stops manufacturing new blood vessels, and those that are already present tend to decrease or disappear. Click here to learn more.

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10. What is fluorescein angiography?

Fluorescein angiography is a test where harmless orange-red dye called Fluorescein will be injected into a vein in your arm. The dye will travel through your body to the blood vessels in your retina. Your doctor will use a special camera with a green filter to flash a blue light into your eye and take multiple photographs. The pictures will be analyzed to identify any damage to the lining of the retina or atypical new blood vessels.

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11. What is Focal Laser Photocoagulation?

Focal Laser Photocoagulation refers to a procedure in which a laser is used to seal leaking blood vessels beneath the retina. The laser heats the tissue around the leak, causing the blood to coagulate and stop leaking.

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