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What is Diabetic Proliferative Retinopathy?

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  • Written By: T. Broderick
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 06 April 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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Diabetic proliferative retinopathy is the second degenerative stage of diabetic retinopathy. Uncontrolled diabetes inflicts irreversible damage to the retina, causing blurred vision and/or blindness. Though one may be asymptomatic for a long period after developing diabetes, diabetic proliferative retinopathy is a likely end result. As the condition is unpredictable to when it can develop in an individual with diabetes, regular medical checkups are required to check for the first signs of the condition.

Diabetic proliferative retinopathy is a condition that afflicts all diabetics equally. The longer one has diabetes, the chances of experiencing retinopathy increase. This is especially true of type 1 diabetics, individuals who require insulin injections for the rest of their lives after diagnosis. Even though medical science has created treatments for both types of diabetes, the eye's structure makes it vulnerable to changes in blood glucose levels no matter how minute.

The human eye has many small, delicate blood vessels. High blood glucose levels apply excess strain on these vessels, causing damage. Untreated diabetes quickly causes damage, while the condition develops more slowly in diabetes patients who do not strictly follow a treatment plan. A diabetic who maintains normal blood glucose levels through medication and lifestyle changes should, in theory, experience many years of normal sight.

Diabetic retinopathy begins with a reversible disorder known as nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy. This condition usually presents without symptoms, yet is easily diagnosed by an optometrist or other physician. In this early stage of retinopathy, scarring begins to develop on the blood vessels around the retina. Also, high blood glucose levels cause an increase in interocular pressure. Macular edema, the leaking of fluid from a blood vessel into the eye, is also likely at this stage of retinopathy.

Irreversible symptoms mark the beginning of diabetic proliferative retinopathy. In response to the eye not receiving enough oxygen, blood vessels begin to grow and proliferate along the back of the eye. These new and enlarged blood vessels are extremely fragile; bleeding into the eye occurs when they burst. Blood automatically clouds vision while the retina, deprived of its blood supply, is destroyed. A patient is left with little to no vision.

Slowing the progression of diabetic proliferative retinopathy is one of the many goals of treatment plans designed for diabetics. For patients with both types of diabetes, diet and exercise play a large role in maintaining normal blood glucose levels. Taking all prescribed medication and/or insulin is the second crucial component. Following these steps in addition to regularly seeing one's optometrist will ensure many years of good vision and excellent overall health.

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