Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in American adults. Changes in the blood vessels of the retina, the light sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the inner eye, can lead to this condition. In some people, retinal blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In others, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. These changes may result in vision loss or blindness.
While you can’t completely prevent
diabetic retinopathy, you can reduce your risk of getting it. Controlling your blood
sugar slows the start of retinopathy. It also keeps it from getting worse. It also
lessens the need for laser surgery for severe retinopathy.
Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may face. All can cause severe vision loss or even blindness. Fortunately, diabetic eye disease often can be treated before vision loss occurs. All people with diabetes need a dilated eye exam at least once a year.
Diabetic eye diseases include:
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye disease in people with diabetes.
Changes in the blood vessels of the
retina cause diabetic retinopathy. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, the blood
vessels in the retina may swell and leak fluid. In others, abnormal new blood vessels
grow on the surface of the retina. These changes may result in vision loss or
Anyone with diabetes is at risk for
diabetic retinopathy. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop
diabetic retinopathy. Your risk rises if you have diabetes and you smoke, have high
blood pressure, or are pregnant.
In the early stages of diabetic
retinopathy, you may have no symptoms. Vision may not change until the disease gets
worse. Then you may have blurry or double vision, dark or floating spots, pain or
pressure in one or both eyes, rings, flashing lights, or blank spots in your vision.
A condition called macular edema
may occur from diabetic retinopathy. It happens when the macula, a part of the retina,
swells from the leaking fluid and causes blurred vision. When new vessels grow on the
surface of the retina, they can bleed into the eye. This may decrease vision.
Along with a complete health
history and eye exam, your eye care professional may do these tests to diagnose diabetic
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It
will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Even people with advanced
retinopathy have a good chance of keeping their vision if they are treated before the
retina becomes severely damaged. Treatment for diabetic retinopathy may include:
Although you can't prevent diabetic retinopathy, you can reduce the risk of developing by:
Following your diabetes management plan by:
Better control of blood sugar slows the onset and progression of retinopathy and lessens the need for laser surgery for severe retinopathy.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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