Diabetic retinopathy is diabetes-related damage to the light-sensitive retina in the back of the eye. As diabetes progresses, chronic high blood sugar levels cause changes that damage the tiny blood vessels in the retina, which makes them leak fluid or hemorrhage (bleed). Eventually, this leads to vision problems that cannot be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. The appearance of diabetic retinopathy is associated with the proliferation of a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in the retina. VEGF stimulates the production of new blood vessels in the retina to bring more oxygen to the tissue because retinal blood circulation is inadequate due to diabetes. Laser treatment for diabetic retinopathy also known as photocoagulation refers to the precise and concentrated application of high energy light, typically of a single wavelength. This light energy is absorbed by body tissue and generates heat, which, in turn, causes clotting of blood and localized destruction of that tissue. When applied to the retina, the light-sensitive membrane lining the inside back wall of the eye, laser energy creates focal “burns” that have two principal effects. They destroy small areas of the retina and they seal off damaged, leaking blood vessels that threaten vision. Blood glucose control and management of other medical issues such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and kidney disease are also important in reducing the risk of diabetic retinopathy. For the first few days, the ophthalmologist will advise you to wear a patch over your eye. This is because activities such as reading and watching television can quickly tire your eye to begin with.
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