Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathycauses, symptom and treatments

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Last updated 9/29/2019
Dr. Assil explains how diabetes affects the eye.

What's proliferative diabetic retinopathy?

When the body is unable to produce or use insulin properly, glucose (sugar) builds up in the blood and damages blood vessels and nerves.  This also damages the small blood vessels that nourish the retina (which senses light and send it to your brain for translation into images).

 

In advanced diabetes, the damaged retinal blood vessels close off, causing the retina to create new but abnormally weak blood vessels to grow on the retina. 

 

This spurt of new weak walled blood vessel is known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

How diabetes affects eyesight

Sustained high blood sugar weakens the vessel walls, making them bulge. This causes leaking and retinal swelling that´s responsible for blurry vision occurring in early stages of diabetic retinopathy. 

 

As scar tissue accumulates, it can contract and pull the delicate underlying retinal layers away from the eye wall (known as a retinal detachment) leading to permanent vision loss. That's why proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss among diabetics.

 

Symptoms of diabetic eye disease

The biggest challenge in managing diabetic eye disease is that there are no early symptoms. During the early stages, you do not experience pain or vision changes.

 

If your diabetes worsens and you develop proliferative diabetic retinopathy, you may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Frequent changes in your vision from sharp to blur
  • Blurry or wavy vision
  • Poor color vision 
  • Areas of darkness or black holes in your vision
  • Tiny spots or fine dark strings (known as Floaters)
  • Flashes of light

 

If you experience sudden onset of any of the above symptoms or sense that a curtain has been pulled over your visual field, this can be a sign of a detached retina, a medical emergency.

 

Diabetic retinopathy, Assil Eye Institute Los Angeles

 

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy treatments

The gold standard treatment for PDR and macular edema is with medications that are applied directly within the affected eye via injection.

 

These medications, known as the anti-VEGF class, are designed to slow the growth of abnormal blood vessels and to keep damaged vessels from leaking: 

 

How anti-vegf medications work

Anti-VEGF medications work by blocking a protein responsible for the growth of abnormal blood vessels (called vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF). These medications also stop weak vessels from leaking. Because of this, anti-VEGF treatments can prevent further vision loss and may even improve vision in some cases. 

 

Anti-VEGF medications are administered via injection into your eye (once it has been numbed) using a very fine needle the thickness of a human hair. This is performed in our office. Typically, you are given several treatments in the first few months, and then fewer treatments over time. 

 

Why choose AEI to manage your diabetic eye disease

The AEI staff includes a highly skilled retina specialist Dr. Svetlana Pilyugina or “Dr. P”, as she is known to her patients. Dr. Pilyugina is an ophthalmologist with fellowship training and board certification in diseases and surgery of the vitreous and retina.

 

Dr. P brings with her many years of experience treating diabetic eye conditions. 

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