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Diabetic Retinopathy



Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in working age Americans. The earliest symptoms of diabetic eye disease are fluctuating vision and poor night vision. Other symptoms include floaters (spots in front of one’s eyes), blurred vision, and ultimately, if not diagnosed earlier, blindness. However, diabetic retinopathy can have no symptoms what-so-ever in the early stages of the disease. This is why it is important that every diabetic have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Diabetic retinopathy results from damage to blood vessels in the retina caused by diabetes.

Diagnosis and Testing

In nearly all cases, diabetic retinopathy can be diagnosed with a thorough routine eye exam. This may include a dilated eye exam, Amsler grid, optical coherence tomography (OCT) or Fluorescein angiography (FA). A harmless fluorescent dye is injected into a vein in your arm where it travels throughout the blood vessels in your body, illuminating them. As the dye passes through the blood vessels in the eye, a special camera takes photographs of the retina. This diagnostic technique helps your ophthalmologist see what is happening in your retina, highlighting any abnormalities that may be present. These images will help your ophthalmologist decide on the best course of treatment for you condition. On occasion, an ultrasound may also be taken to provide additional information.

Treatment and Procedures

The best treatment is to prevent diabetic retinopathy and reduce the long-term risk of vision loss is strict control of your blood sugar levels as well as blood pressure and cholesterol.

There have been many advances in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy in recent years. Medical treatments include injections of anti-VEGF or steroid medication as well as laser treatment such as pan-retinal photocoagulation. These can both be performed in the office.  Both methods are used to stop or shrink the grown of new blood vessels. Lastly, a surgical procedure called Vitrectomy can be performed in cases with advanced disease called Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy. This procedure would be performed in the operating room.

Patients with Type 1 diabetes should schedule an examination within five years of being diagnosed and then yearly. People with Type 2 diabetes should have an exam at the time of diabetes diagnosis and then once a year. Pregnant women with diabetes should schedule an appointment in the first trimester because retinopathy can progress quickly during pregnancy.


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The Greater New Bedford Surgical and Laser Center

The Greater New Bedford Surgical and Laser Center was opened in 1986 with the express purpose of rendering high quality, state of the art eye surgery to patients of all ages, especially those with cataracts, glaucoma, or cornea disease. The Center is designed specifically with the needs of the patient in mind. The entire process from initial examination to final outcome is conducted in a pleasant comfortable environment.

After a patient decides to have surgery, he or she is assigned his or her own Surgical Counselor who is available to answer questions and provide assistance. These individuals are specially trained to assist the patient throughout the entire surgical experience, including follow up care for as long as necessary. Patients are encouraged to contact their counselor for any questions, no matter how simple or complex.