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Causes and Treatments of Diabetic Retinopathy

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Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy continued...

Laser treatment for diabetic retinopathy, called laser photocoagulation, works in part by creating tiny, painless retinal burns that seal off leaking vessels and reduce swelling. The number of burns the doctor makes and the number of treatments you need depend on the type and extent of your retinopathy and how well it responds to treatment. You may have to wait several months to find out if this treatment is improving your condition.

Your doctor may recommend vitrectomy surgery if you have a hemorrhage that doesn't clear, if you have retinal detachment, or if laser treatment doesn't sufficiently halt the growth of new vessels. During vitrectomy, your doctor drains the gel-like substance inside the eye, allowing her to clear any lingering blood and to remove scar tissue. The vitreous fluid is then replaced with a substitute fluid.

Rare complications of treatment may include blurred vision, headache, glaucoma, difficulty seeing in the dark, decreased peripheral and color vision, and bleeding. In most cases when treatment is recommended, the benefits outweigh the risks.

Although both of these treatments can be very effective, your expectations for either treatment should be realistic. Typically laser or surgical treatment will not restore lost vision; however, treatment can prevent any additional loss of eyesight. If you already have vision loss, your doctor can counsel you about options for visual rehabilitation.

Prevention of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy can be minimized with a combination of strict blood sugar control and routine screening with eye exams -- though even with optimal medical care, it is not always possible to prevent or slow retinal damage.

Studies have shown that maintaining near-normal blood sugar can decrease the chance of developing retinopathy and can help keep existing retinopathy from getting worse. Your doctor can provide you with guidelines that may include insulin and other medications, dietary modifications, and exercise. Intensive insulin therapy, which may include frequent blood sugar testing and the use of an insulin pump, may be an option. It's not always easy to stick to the disciplined lifestyle necessary to control your blood sugar; don't hesitate to tell your doctor if you need extra support to adhere to his guidelines.

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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