New York Ophthalmologist, Dr. Jeffrey Josef in Pomona and on staff at Nyack Hospital shares tips for prevention and treatment of retinopathy in diabetic patients.

Nyack, N.Y. October 31, 2013 --  Diabetes, if not successfully controlled, can cause an eye disease called retinopathy that damages the blood vessels in the retina. According to Dr. Josef, “National Diabetes Month is a good time for the 26 million Americans living with diabetes, and the 79 million who have prediabetes, to learn about diabetic retinopathy, and how to avoid it or treat it.”

People with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at risk for retinopathy. Between 40 to 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some form of diabetic retinopathy.

How Retinopathy Develops
The retina is the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye, which is necessary for good vision. A person with diabetic retinopathy generally experiences damage to the retina in both eyes.                                                                                                                  
As retinopathy first develops, small areas of balloon-like swelling in the retina’s tiny blood vessels appear. Some blood vessels that feed the retina are blocked, depriving it of crucial blood supply. As the condition advances, new blood vessels grow in response to the need for nourishment. These new blood vessels are fragile. If they leak blood, the result can be severe vision loss or even blindness.
Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment
If you have diabetes, the best way to prevent the damage caused retinopathy is to control your blood sugar levels. Take your prescribed medication, follow the diet your doctor has recommended, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.

To make sure you are not developing diabetic retinopathy, or to catch it early if you are so you can begin treatment, you need a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Don’t wait until you have symptoms, such as blurred vision or specks of blood “floating” in your vision.

Treatment depends on how advanced the eye damage is. Early stages may be simply monitored without treatment.  If your eye doctor detects growth of new blood vessels in the eye, called proliferative retinopathy, you may be advised to have a type of laser surgery called scatter laser treatment to help shrink the abnormal blood vessels. Over the course of several treatments, the doctor places many tiny laser burns in the retina, which causes the vessels to shrink. The treatment is most effective when it is done before the new blood vessels have begun to bleed. The surgery may still be effective even if bleeding has begun, depending on how advanced the retinopathy has become. 
If you have suffered vision loss from diabetic retinopathy, your doctor may prescribe a special low-vision device to help you make the most of your remaining vision.

To keep your eyes healthy, don’t miss your diabetes-related appointments, and see your eye doctor. Finding and treating the eye disease early, before it causes vision loss or blindness, is the best way to control eye disease in people with diabetes.

Nyack Hospital is a 375-bed community acute care medical and surgical hospital located in Rockland County, NY. Founded in 1895, it is a member of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System, an affiliate of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and has partnered with Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine providing clinical rotations to third-year medical students. Its mission is to provide competent, innovative and accessible emergency and acute care services to the residents of Rockland County and surrounding areas.