Microaneurysms are an eye condition that usually manifests in the form of tiny red dots within the eye, usually surrounded by yellow rings that are the result of vascular leakage. Microaneurysms have no other signs or symptoms and do not affect vision in any way. Microaneurysms usually serve as the earliest signs of diabetic retinopathy. This means that microaneurysms are incredibly important symptoms, as the recognition of them within the eye can lead to an earlier treatment of diabetic retinopathy, which can result in a lower chance of vision loss.
Diabetic retinopathy, a side effect of the later stages of diabetes, affects 285 million people worldwide, making it the leading cause of vision-loss globally. Diabetic retinopathy occurs in those that have diabetes when elevated blood sugar levels cause damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. These damaged blood vessels can leak fluid into the macula, resulting in blurry vision. Then, when new blood vessels form on the surface of the macula in an attempt to rectify the abnormal blood flow in the retina, the fresh blood vessels can leak into the back of the eye, blocking vision and causing vision loss.
While most people don’t develop diabetic retinopathy until about 10 years after the onset of diabetes, the spike in blood sugar levels that diabetes causes can realistically result in diabetic retinopathy at any point. This fact means that it is all the more important to receive treatment as early as possible once diabetic retinopathy sets in. This also means that symptoms like microaneurysms, in conjunction with regular eye exams, can be incredibly important in the detection of diabetic retinopathy at its earliest stage.
While diabetic retinopathy cannot be cured, detecting it early provides doctors the opportunity to use a wider range of treatments to help slow the progression of the condition. Treatments like a change in diet and exercise can help manage blood sugar levels and keep blood vessels in the eye from being damaged. Additionally, once blood vessels in the eye start leaking, laser surgery can help cauterize them and stop or slow the leaking.