Retinopathy is a condition where the vessels which supply blood to the retina become diseased or damaged. This is a serious progressive disease which can result in blindness.
It is caused by several factors which include diabetes, sickle cell disease and high blood pressure. Other potential causes include genetic disorders such as polycystic liver disease and nephronophthisis (childhood kidney disease).
Symptoms of retinopathy
There may be no symptoms to start with but symptoms will appear over time and include:
- Dark spots in front of the eyes
- Blurred vision/double vision
- Floaters or flashes in front of the eyes
- Impaired vision
- Bleeding in the retina
- Swelling of the optic nerve
- Pain in the eye
- Loss of night vision
High blood pressure can damage the blood vessels to the retina which causes leakage or a blockage - retinopathy.
If you have high blood pressure than you are at risk of this disease, but, this risk is even greater if you have both diabetes and high blood pressure.
Why is this?
The main reason is that diabetes causes excessively high blood sugar levels which can damage the blood vessels within the retina. This damage results in bleeding or leaking from the blood vessels and may prevent light from reaching the retina.
This is exactly the same problem as with high blood pressure.
But if you have both diseases then you have doubled your risk.
Over time this results in impaired or loss of vision and even complete blindness. So it is important to regulate your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes: and take steps to control your high blood pressure which means monitoring it on a regular basis.
If you have either of these conditions then please be aware of the serious risk to your eyesight. Have this checked at regular intervals in order to detect any early signs of this disease. Doing this will either prevent it or slow down any progression.
Treatment for retinopathy
This will depend on what stage your retinopathy is at. If it is at an early stage then you will be advised to have regular eye examinations as well advice on controlling your diabetes and/or high blood pressure. If it is at a more advanced stage then you may be referred for laser treatment which works by sealing off any damaged blood vessels within the retina. This prevents any further bleeding and subsequent vision loss.
But if you are not suitable for this then you may require eye surgery or ‘vitreous surgery’. This type of surgery is performed if the disease is at a highly advanced stage; there may be extensive bleeding and scar tissue within the retina which has caused it to detach. Vitreous surgery involves the removal of vitreous gel from the front of the retina as well as any scar tissue. A special gas or liquid is then used to hold the retina in place. This gas or liquid is absorbed by your body over time which then creates new vitreous gel in its place.
But one of the better ways of preventing this is to reduce the risk in the first place. This means lowering your high blood pressure which is a major cause of an advanced form of retinopathy.
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