Diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed with a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Drops are placed in your eyes to dilate (widen) your pupils so your eye doctor can view the back of your eyes. The doctor will look for abnormal blood vessels, swelling, blood, and fatty deposits in the retina, along with looking for any abnormalities in your optic nerve.
Pictures of the inside of your eyes are taken and you may have an exam that uses a medical-grade dye injected in your arm so that pictures will show the dye as it circulates through your eyes’ blood vessels. This will show blood vessels that have broken down and are leaking.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Optometry recommend that people with diabetes get dilated and comprehensive eye exams at least every year regardless of symptoms. Exams are needed more frequently if you are having eye problems.
Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy
Treatment for diabetic retinopathy depends on the extent of the disease. If you have mild nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy you may not need treatment. But your eye doctor will continue to monitor your eyes and intervene when treatment becomes necessary.
One treatment is anti-vascular endothelial growth factor injections. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a signaling protein that induces the growth of new blood vessels. An injection of an anti-VEGF will stop the new, abnormal blood vessels in the eye.
Early treatment is the best way to stop vision loss.
You can reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy with these six steps:
- Control your blood sugar levels by consuming a healthy die and, getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity, such as walking.
- Monitor your blood sugar levels frequently. This may mean checking your blood sugar levels several times a day so you can keep it under control. Ask your doctor how often you should test your blood sugar.
- Get a glycosylated hemoglobin test. This test will show your average blood sugar level for a two-to-three month period. This will help you understand how your blood sugar level varies over time and help you control it better.
- Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. Eating healthy foods, regular exercise, and losing excess weight can help you keep both your blood pressure and your cholesterol in the normal ranges. Medications for blood pressure and cholesterol levels may also be needed.
- If you smoke, find a way to help you stop. Smoking increased your risk of many diabetic complications, including diabetic retinopathy.
- Monitor your vision. Contact your eye doctor right away if you notice any vision changes, such as blurriness, haziness, or spots in your visual field.