Background Diabetic Retinopathy
Almost one-half of the people who have had diabetes for ten years or more will have abnormalities of the tiny blood vessels in the retina. This condition is called background diabetic retinopathy, or diabetic retinopathy.
Background diabetic retinopathy affects the blood vessels that supply nutrients to the retina and are very important for clear vision. Both eyes are usually affected. Dr Matthews and Dr. Harriott stress that early diagnosis through regular eye exams is essential.
There is no immediate treatment necessary for early background diabetic retinopathy. However, progression of the disease may cause leakage and hemorrhage of the tiny blood vessels in the retina, which may go unnoticed by the patient. A thorough dilated eye exam will help to determine if further testing is necessary.
Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
In this advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy, new blood vessels grow and spread over the retina and into the vitreous (or the jelly part of the eye). These new vessels can hemorrhage and block light from entering the eye, causing loss of vision.
If left untreated, proliferative diabetic retinopathy can cause extensive scar tissue to grow along these vessels. This can cause distortion and eventual detachment of the retina. If this occurs, surgical removal of the vitreous and blood is required.
When proliferative diabetic retinopathy is found, prompt laser treatment is necessary. Dr. Matthews and Dr. Harriott can perform this treatment in the office. No hospitalization is required.
Diabetic Macular Edema
Microaneurysms, which are tiny blebs on blood vessels, can leak near the macula (your vision center) and cause swelling. This Macular Edema of the retinal tissues causes progressive blurred vision.
Some patients' blurred vision ebbs and flows as the retina absorbs the leaking fluid. When the retina cannot absorb the fluid fast enough, fat and protein particles called exudates deposit in the retina. This causes a decrease in your vision.
Dr. Matthews and Dr. Harriott are specialty-trained in identifying and treating these leaking microaneurysms. First, a procedure called fluorescein angiography is performed to determine if leaking microaneurysms are present. Then a laser is used to seal individual leaking microaneurysms near the macula, allowing the edema (swelling) to resolve.
All of these procedures can be performed in the office. During future eye exams, additional laser treatment is sometimes necessary if new leaks are discovered.
What Is Laser Surgery?
First, Dr. Matthews and Dr. Harriott will select a wavelength (or color) that will be absorbed by the eye tissue needing treatment. Then they will focus the laser beam precisely on the problem area. By controlling the power, exposure and size of the light beam, the laser stops leakage from small blood vessels affected by diabetes.
Laser light is within the normal visible, or near visible, light spectrum. Because it can be precisely controlled, it is a safe and reliable treatment.
John D. Matthews, MD and John T. Harriott, MD of Southeastern Eye Center are both fellowship trained retina specialists and Board Certified by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
"Trust Your Eyes To Experience"