Most eye diseases are completely asymptomatic (show no noticeable symptoms) in their early stages when they are most easily treated (including glaucoma and retinopathies). Early detection, therefore, is an important part of eye care. It is imperative that patients, especially those at increased risk, receive routine screening by medical and surgical specialists trained in dealing with these disorders.
Our team of retina surgeons in Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff use the best imaging system in the world for retinal and macular diseases. Heidelberg high-definition imaging systems are available at most of our locations allowing for superior imaging and diagnosis of disease processes related to macular degeneration, diabetes, macular pucker, and inflammatory conditions of the retina and choroid. High-resolution video imaging angiography and 3D macular images can resolve details in the retina as small as a few microns – smaller than the width of a single red blood cell.
More patients trust their eyes to our retina surgeons for their retinal surgery needs than to any other practice in the state.
The first stage of diabetic retinopathy is called non-proliferative retinopathy (NPDR). A patient may have NPDR and have only mild blurring or no symptoms at all, even though significant damage to the retinal tissue is beginning. During this stage of the disease, portions of the retina’s blood vessels weaken and bulge outward; hemorrhages and microanuerysms result. Some of these unhealthy capillaries have very poor blood flow and are unable to deliver nutrients to the retina resulting in further damage (macular ischemia). Damaged blood vessels or areas of ischemia often leak fluid within the retinal tissue, causing the retina to swell. This swelling is called macular edema and often requires treatment. Our retina surgeons employ the most advanced imaging system in the world to evaluate and image diabetic retinal disease.
With worsening blood flow and retinal ischemia, the tissues will try to compensate by attempting to grow new blood vessels. The formation of these abnormal new blood vessels indicates a transition to proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), the next stage of the disease. These new vessels tend to be abnormal and very fragile. These new vessels (called neovascularization) often rupture and leak fluid and blood into the eye. Hemorrhage in the eye (called vitreous hemorrhage) results in blurred vision, severe “floaters,” and in some cases near-total black-out of vision. It may take weeks, months, or even years for the body to break down and resorb the blood in the eye from a vitreous hemorrhage. Laser treatment and vitrectomy surgery may be required for PDR.
Often, the abnormal blood vessels that develop in PDR are associated with inflammation and scar tissue that can create traction on the delicate retinal surface. This traction may deform or even detach areas of the retina. Traction (with or without tears in the retinal tissue) can create complex retinal detachments that can lead to blindness. Vitrectomy surgery is often required for traction and retinal detachments associated with proliferative diabetic retinopathy.