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Can Diabetic Retinopathy Be Reversed?

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Comprehensive eye exams are important to protect your health and help you see clearly, especially if you have diabetes. This condition is a leading cause of blindness in the world, but your optometrist can help preserve your sight.

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a condition that affects most diabetics. In the first 20 years of the disease’s development, almost all type 1 diabetics and 60% of type 2 diabetics get DR. This makes it especially vital to get your eyes checked regularly. But a large question remains: is diabetic retinopathy reversible?

While there are treatments available for diabetic retinopathy, it isn’t fully reversible. Treatments focus on stopping the condition from worsening, and, in some cases, recovering some of your vision, but the condition itself is permanent. 

What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy, or DR, is a condition that can develop alongside diabetes. It’s brought on by high blood sugar levels damaging the blood vessels in the eyes.

Once damaged, these blood vessels can swell and leak into your eye, causing small floating spots or blind spots in your vision. In more extreme cases, these blood vessels can swell to the point of closing entirely, which stops blood from passing through at all.

In the later stages of DR, new blood vessels may begin to develop on the retina (the tissue in your eye that receives light and helps your brain create an image of what it’s seeing). Whether the original blood vessels close or the newer ones develop, it can lead to blurry vision and blind spots, and, if left untreated, total blindness.

There are 2 stages of DR.

Stage 1: Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR)

The early stage of DR is non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy. In this early development, the blood vessels swell and leak into the eye. There are a few symptoms associated with this stage:

  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulty seeing colors clearly
  • Poor night vision
  • Random floaters in your vision
  • Vision switching between blurry and clear
  • Blind spots in your vision

Stage 2: Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy

The later stage of DR is proliferative diabetic retinopathy. In this stage, the eye develops new, weaker blood vessels on the retinal tissue. These new vessels can leak into the eye or begin to block light from entering the retina, which may lead to blind spots. 

The leaks may begin small, leading to an increase in small floaters in your field of vision. But as it progresses, the blood vessels can cause total vision loss in your eye.

There are several symptoms that can develop in this stage:

  • Blurry vision
  • Gradually worsening vision
  • Moving floaters in your vision
  • Eye discomfort, redness, or soreness
  • Blurry vision
  • Blind spots in your vision
A close-up of a human hand pointing to a growing abnormal blood vessel in the retina.

Is Diabetic Retinopathy Curable?

While diabetic retinopathy can be treated, there are no ways to completely reverse its symptoms and effects on your eyes. However, there are many treatment options available to minimize the symptoms. This makes it extremely important to get your eyes checked regularly, especially if you’re a diabetic. The sooner that DR is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin, so its effects on your eyes are potentially minimized.

One of the most important ways to prevent or slow diabetic retinopathy development is by controlling your blood sugar. Ask your medical provider for advice on building a healthy routine to take care of your body, and follow what they say.

See Your Optometrist

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, it’s extremely important to visit your optometrist for an examination at least once a year, or according to your eye doctor’s recommendation.

Book an appointment with Total Vision La Mesa today to speak with a helpful professional.

Written by Total Vision

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