Research shows that people with Type I and Type II diabetes and pregnant women with gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Secondary to unregulated blood sugar and diabetes, this condition can cause vision loss. Therefore, it's important to conduct regular dilated eye exams for diabetic patients. Besides diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma is another common cause of vision loss. Fortunately, several treatment options are available for these conditions, including laser treatments.
What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is among the leading causes of permanent blindness across the world, especially in people with diabetes. The eye continuously generates an aqueous fluid that must drain to sustain proper eye pressure. With glaucoma, your eye's ability to drain off the fluid is hindered, which can damage the optic nerve and lead to blindness. The two most common types of glaucoma are open-angle and narrow-angle.
Open-angle glaucoma is usually linked to genetics and happens when the drainage angle is cleared, but the trabecular meshwork becomes blocked. With this form of glaucoma, vision loss is gradual and usually without early warning symptoms.
On the other hand, narrow-angle glaucoma is associated with accumulated fluid that cannot drain effectively due to narrow or blocked drainage canals. As a result, eye pressure increases significantly faster. Common symptoms of narrow-angle glaucoma include:
- Severe Headaches
- Eye Pain
- Blurred Vision
- Halos Around Lights
- Redness in Eyes
Regular eye exams are essential to catching glaucoma early and helping retain your vision.
What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that can affect the eyes by destroying the retina's blood vessels, leading to significant vision loss or blindness. Anyone who has been diagnosed with diabetes should learn the effects the condition could have on their vision. Routine eye exams are just as vital as ongoing blood sugar management. Some common signs of diabetic retinopathy include:
- Difficulty reading
- Blurry vision
- "Cobwebs" in vision
- "Holes" in vision
- Black spots or floaters in the vision
- Poor vision when driving
- Difficulty identifying colors or becoming colorblind
How Laser Photocoagulation Helps Preserve Vision
Laser photocoagulation may help improve vision when suffering from diabetic retinopathy by stopping blood vessels from leaking. This quick procedure may also help destroy abnormal blood vessels. One common technique used is focal photocoagulation, where laser energy is directed to a few concentrated blood vessels. As a result, the heat from the laser seals off the blood vessels and prevents further leaking.
Another technique, known as scatter photocoagulation, may also be used to destroy numerous abnormal blood vessels at once. By destroying these abnormal blood vessels and sealing the ones that are leaking, laser photocoagulation may slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy as well as vision loss. This simple procedure is conducted in the office, and you are made comfortable with a local anesthetic provided as eye drops. You may feel slight stinging or see flashes of light as the laser works on the blood vessels.
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty Technique
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) is a more advanced laser treatment for managing open-angle glaucoma. Instead of burning tissue wholesomely, SLT selectively simulates only specific pigmented cells to ensure increased fluid drainage. SLT results in a biological response that improves aqueous drainage and minimizes intraocular pressure without burning tissue.
Before the procedure, you'll be provided with eye drops to prepare the eye for treatment. The laser is then applied through a special microscope. Generally, you'll need about 1-2 hours of office time so the eye pressure can be checked after the treatment.
Prevention Is the Best Medicine
Vision loss from glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy is permanent but can be prevented with early detection and treatment. Glaucoma management is often a lifelong process that requires regular monitoring and ongoing treatment. Since it's hard to determine if glaucoma is under control based on how you feel, it's best to schedule a professional examination every 3-4 months. So, if you have experienced a significant loss of peripheral vision or have other challenges with your eyesight, you should schedule a full eye examination with Atlantic Eye Consultants. Contact us today to speak with our experienced eye consultant!