What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Board-certified Owasso, OK Opthalmologist, Dr. Jay Rigney, recommends regular eye exams and check-ups for the general population, but especially for diabetic patients. Regardless of which type of diabetes a patient suffers from (type 1 or 2), a common complication is diabetic retinopathy. People with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes can develop this eye condition. This eye condition refers to damage in the blood vessels of the retina, which is located in the back of the eye. Factors that most contribute to diabetic retinopathy include the type of diabetes, how long the patient has suffered from diabetes, how often the blood gluclose changes, and how controlled the pateint's sugar levels are. While the condition may be mild with few or no symptoms initially, symptoms can worsen over time and even cause blindness. In fact, diabetic retinopathy is credited as the top reason for vision problems among diabetics, as well as the main cause for blindness among working-age adults.
Causes and Symptoms
Diabetic retinopathy is a direct result of having diabetes, where chronic high blood sugar episodes have caused damage to the blood vessels in the retina. The retina is a layer of tissue found in the back of the eye which consists of light-sensitive tissue that’s responsible for detecting light. In turn, diabetic retinopathy can lead to diabetic macular edema (DME), which causes fluid to build-up in the central portion of the retina, the macula, which can lead to vision problems.
While there are usually no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, symptoms can gradually progress. Common symptoms are:
- Vision problems, including distortion and blurriness
- Decrease in visual acuity (sharpness)
- Appearance of floaters
- Vision loss
- Decreased color vision
"I've been to Dr. Rigneys twice now and highly recommend him. I get right in and right out, everything runs on time, and he still schedules enough time to meticulously check my eyes. He really takes time to talk to you and get it right. His office and staff are warm and caring. It's a comfortable environment and I have always felt like they are really taking care of me. Choosing glasses with Tim is a fun experience and I feel so confident wearing the glasses he helped me choose. I also really appreciate that after I got my contacts, Dr. Rigney had me come back to check on them to make sure they were working and make any changes if necessary. From the exam to picking up my glasses and contacts Dr. Rigney is the best. 5 ?????"- S.A. / Facebook / Aug 25, 2017
"Dr. Rigney is amazing! My niece was there for her annual visit....he did her eye scans and noticed something and wanted her to get an MRI....he continued to research and consult after her appointment and then said it needed to be emergency....not only did he help make this happen, he repeatedly checked in on Addison while she was in the hospital, as well as with physicians involved....and he has continued to do so!!! (she was diagnosed with pseudotumor cerebri) he has been such a blessing and we feel the only one out of all involved who genuinely seems concerned with Addison’s health and recovery! He continues to monitor her and keep in touch and update everyone else involved!! (His staff is great too) we were happy with them before but the above and beyond care has blown us away and we are forever grateful! We highly recommend Dr. Rigney!"- A.T. / Google / Jun 14, 2019
"I have been a patient of Dr. Rigney’s for over 20 years. I highly recommend his services. Dr. Rigney and Tim have both taken the time to thoroughly explain any question I have had. They have gone out of their way to help me get replacement glasses when I had trouble with the frames that I had chosen. Over the past 20+ years I have been completely satisfied."- G.W. / Facebook / May 29, 2019
"Very good exam , his helper was very good also . I was totally impressed with the whole experience ! I'm 74 and get real anxious @ eye exams but he made me feel very comfortable !!!"- L.J. / Facebook / Sep 11, 2020
"I have been using Dr. Rigney since I was a kid. Now my kids go to him too. He is a wonderful family man and understanding of kids needs. My oldest is autistic and Dr Rigney is so calm and direct. it's really is awesome to watch my child be completely comfortable there! He takes time to explain any changes in vision on a level that is easy to understand. Frames are a bit expensive but good quality and brands. Office staff is amazing and Tim is an insurance wizard!"- Anonymous / Healthgrades / Jun 06, 2020
Diabetics should regularly have routine comprehensive eye exams to check for any problems. We will use the visual acuity test, utilizing an eye chart to determine how well a patient can see at various distances. With tonometry, Dr. Rigney will measure the pressure within the eye to see if there are any abnormalities. Pupil dilation widens the pupil so your doctor can get a better view of your retina to see what’s going on with the area. With optical coherence tomography (OCT), light waves are used to capture detailed images of the retina.
In certain cases, we may choose to use fluorescein angiography where you will be injected with a special dye that will go into your bloodstream. The fluorescent dye will highlight blood vessels in the retina to determine if any there’s any bleeding, leaking, or damage present.
Treatment and Prognosis
Drugs like corticosteroids are often given to patients suffering from diabetic retinopathy to alleviate symptoms, such as inflammation. The medications can be injected or implanted into the eye for a continuous delivery. Laser treatment uses laser technology to target and burn damaged and leaking blood vessels to prevent further leaking and to decrease inflammation. Anti-VEGF drugs are injected into the eye in the vitreous gel. The drugs work to block a certain protein that’s responsible for the growth of abnormal blood vessels which can leak fluid.
Although in certain cases there’s no way to reverse vision loss or blindness, most patients can expect about a 95% reduction in the occurrence of blindness with an early diagnosis and proper treatment. Controlling diabetes by keeping blood sugar levels intact is one of the best ways to prevent or slow down the progression of diabetic retinopathy.
Plan Your Procedure
Treat Diabetic Retinopathy
It’s especially important for diabetics in general and pregnant diabetic patients in particular to get routine eye exams to prevent complications. Since diabetic retinopathy is so common, we perform comprehensive eye exams for our diabetic patients. To schedule your eye exam, contact our office as soon as possible.