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Diabetic retinopathy is an eye problem that people with diabetes may suffer as a complication of this disease. It is caused by the alteration of the blood vessels irrigating the retina at the back of the eye. About 60% of patients, who have suffered diabetes for 15 years or more, already have damaged blood vessels in the retina thus giving origin to “Diabetic Retinopathy”.

The different degrees of visual alteration caused by this disease, range from a simple visual difficulty up to blindness. Diabetic patients are 25 times more likely to go blind than non-diabetic patients. In Argentina, there is an estimation that about 7% of the population suffers from diabetes.

High levels of blood sugar- Hyperglycemia- would affect the retina capillaries weakening their walls and forming balloon-like swellings called “microaneurysms”. These diseased vessels leak fluid and blood into the retina thus causing “exudates”, hemorrhages” and “retinal edema”.
When this exudative fluid is deposited in the central area of the retina (called macula) it causes “Diabetic Macular Edema” resulting in blurred vision especially for reading or for the definition of details.

It is very important that all patients suffering from diabetes visit their ophthalmologist in order to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam (pupils are dilated) at least ONCE A YEAR in order to check the retina for signs of the disease and decide on the follow-up treatment. The earlier the diagnosis of diabetic lesions in the eye is made, the more likely the treatment will be effective avoiding vision loss and blindness.

This is a diagnostic test used to check the abnormal blood vessels and the areas in the retina with deficiency in the blood supply. This method called “Retinal Angiofluoresceinography” allows the blood vessels at the back of the eye to be photographed as a dye (called Fluorescein) is injected into the bloodstream via vein in the patient’s arm. It is useful to check the central retina (the macula) in more detail when it needs laser treatment.

The ophthalmologist will choose between “Laser” ophthalmologic surgery and “Photocoagulation” in order to cauterize defective vessels and areas with deficit in the blood supply. This procedure is performed in the doctor's office as outpatient treatment, with dilated pupils and causes no pain. The early use of Laser may reduce or delay the progress towards Proliferative Retinopathy up to a 90%.

When the vitreous humor is deeply affected (very turbid due to the accumulation of blood), Laser treatment is very difficult and therefore a different treatment called "Vitrectomy" is necessary.
This is a very delicate surgical procedure requiring of highly sophisticated instruments and a great experience from the surgeon. It consists of the removal of the hemorrhages and membrane formed inside the eye and the eventual treatment of the retina with Laser.
Although the postoperative prognosis in these cases is guarded, the earlier the treatment is applied, the more effective it is.


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