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Crucial Facts Seniors Should Know About Diabetic Retinopathy

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Seniors with unmanaged diabetes are also at risk for a few related complications, including an eye disease known as diabetic retinopathy. To help you and your aging loved one better understand this condition, Douglas County senior home care professionals discuss its symptoms, treatment, and anatomy and offer tips on how to prevent it.

What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?

A complication of sustained high insulin, this disease causes progressive damage to the retina. The longer a senior has diabetes type 1 or 2, the greater the risk of developing retinopathy. Complications include glaucoma and retinal detachment. If untreated, blindness can result.

Symptoms

Some of the common symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Seeing floating strings
  • Dark or empty spots in the central line of vision
  • Blurred eyesight
  • Impaired night vision

Anatomy

Uncontrolled blood sugar causes the vessels that feed the retina to weaken, which allows blood and fluid to leak into the macula. Swelling of the macula results in cloudy central vision, and fluid can also accumulate in the lens, changing its curvature and impairing focus. Usually, both eyes are affected.

There are two classifications of diabetic retinopathy: 

  • NPDR 

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the early stage of the condition. Retinal arteries are weakened, creating tiny bulges in their walls that leak fluid and blood. At this stage, new blood vessels are not yet growing.

  • PDR 

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the advanced stage of the condition. Existing blood vessels become blocked, and new blood vessels grow and multiply to compensate. The resulting scar tissue can cause the retina to detach from the back of the eye. If the new vessels impede fluid drainage, eye pressure can build, triggering glaucoma. When the bleeding is severe, vision can be completely lost.

A few of the most common risk factors for both stages of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Hispanic, African-American, and Native American ethnicity

Treatment

Depending on the severity of your loved one’s symptoms, laser surgery may be needed to seal the leaking arteries. Injected medications can stop the formation of new vessels and decrease inflammation. Retinal detachment requires surgical repair.

Prevention

Many of the preventative measure your loved one can take are the same steps involved in managing diabetes. These measures include:

  • Taking insulin medication as prescribed
  • Following dietary recommendations for diabetes
  • Exercising regularly
  • Controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol

If you loved one needs help managing diabetes and maintaining healthy habits to prevent serious eye diseases, turn to Home Care Assistance. Our respite and live-in caregivers can provide medication reminders, cook healthy meals, encourage and assist with exercise, and help with many other important tasks. We also offer comprehensive Parkinson’s, stroke, and Alzheimer’s care Douglas County seniors can count on. For more information on our in-home care services, please call 720-287-1685 to speak with one of our knowledgeable Care Managers.