Diabetic Retinopathy - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Diabetic Retinopathy

Every one knows someone with diabetes. If you have it, your pancreas doesn't produce insulin, an enzyme that helps metabolize sugar in your blood. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage many organs, including your eyes. Half of all people with diabetes can expect some vision problems. Many cases are mild, but some people are faced with the threat of blindness. Thankfully there are surgical procedures that can help many people with diabetes keep their vision longer. More from Mayo Clinic.


Crossword puzzles help keep Irene Hensen's mind sharp. But before she had a series of surgeries, diabetes had dulled Irene's sight.

"I couldn't read any of this."

Irene has what's called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes is damaging the tiny vessels in her retina -- the tissue that captures light and sends messages to your brain.

Terrified of going blind, Irene found help at Mayo Clinic where Dr. Helmut Beuttner performs surgeries that...

"Either improve vision or stabilize and slow down further deterioration."

As the blood vessels in the retina become damaged, they leak fluid and blood. The area swells and distorts vision. To treat it, Dr. Buettner uses a laser to burn the area and stop vessels from leaking. It worked for Irene. She was able to see well enough to create intricate crafts. But as her diabetes progressed, her vision deteriorated again. This time it was because new vessels were forming. They began to leak and close off, forming scar tissue. The scar tissue threatened to detach her retina, and cause blindness. Again doctors used a laser to stop the damage.

It was another success for Irene, for a while. When her sight slipped yet again, she had another surgery called a vitrectomy. It involved cutting away scar tissue to save the retina. The result?

"A world of difference."

The gift of sight. So very precious when it's almost lost.

Dr. Buettner wants to remind us that the surgeries for diabetic retinopathy do not cure the disease. They can give improved sight for patients as their disease progresses. He says all patients who are diagnosed with diabetes should see an ophthalmologist regularly. And the better your diabetes is controlled, the better your chances are of keeping clear vision. For more information, log onto http://www.medicaledge.org/2004october-2.html

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