Stem Cell Therapy May Help Diabetic Retinopathy

Stem Cell Therapy May Help Diabetic Retinopathy

One of the many side effects of diabetes can cause damage to the eyes and vision. It’s an unfortunate reality of uncontrolled blood glucose levels. Diabetic retinopathy can be difficult to treat after the retina cells have been damaged. Stem cell therapy may offer a solution to the death of retina cells, replacing them and potentially restoring sight.


What is Diabetic Retinopathy?


Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that affects the eye tissue. It’s caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye called the retina. At the first stages of the condition, diabetic retinopathy may cause no symptoms or only mild vision problems. Eventually, it can cause total blindness in one or both eyes. The condition can develop in anyone who has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The longer you have diabetes, and the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to develop this sort of eye complication. Over time, too much sugar in your blood can lead to the blockage of the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina, cutting off its blood supply. As a result, the eye attempts to grow new blood vessels.


But these new blood vessels don’t develop properly and can end up bursting and leaking. There are two common stages of diabetic retinopathy called early diabetic retinopathy and advanced diabetic retinopathy. Early diabetic retinopathy is the more common form of the condition. It is sometimes called nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) because new blood vessels aren’t growing or proliferating. When you have NPDR, the walls of the blood vessels in your retina begin to weaken.


Tiny bulges, called microaneurysms, protrude from the vessel walls of the smaller vessels, sometimes leaking fluid and blood into the retina. Larger retinal vessels can begin to dilate and become irregular in diameter as well. NPDR may progress from mild to severe as more blood vessels become blocked and burst. Nerve fibers in the retina may also begin to swell. Sometimes the central part of the retina begins to swell. This form of the condition will require treatment. If the disease continues to progress, it may shift into the advanced diabetic retinopathy stage. Diabetic retinopathy of this stage is more severe and known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

In this stage, damaged blood vessels close off, causing the growth of new, abnormal blood vessels in the retina that can leak into the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the center of your eye. Eventually, scar tissue may cause the retina to detach from the back of your eye. If the new blood vessels interfere with the normal flow of fluid out of the eye, pressure may build up in the eyeball. This can damage the nerve that carries images from your eye to your resulting in glaucoma.


How Can Stem Cell Therapy Help My Diabetic Retinopathy?


Stem cells have the ability to stop or reverse many different degenerative diseases, potentially including diabetic retinopathy. Researchers have found that stem cell therapy is more useful in the earlier stages of diabetic retinopathy than in the advanced stage. It can stop retina cells from dying while replacing the ones that have already been damaged. More research needs to be done before it is an approved treatment.

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