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 avoid diabetic retinopathy, you can reduce your risk of developing it. Better control of blood sugar slows the onset and progression of retinopathy and 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, 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.
Anyone with diabetes is at risk for diabetic retinopathy. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop diabetic retinopathy.
In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, you may have no symptoms. Vision may not change until the disease progresses. 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 as a consequence of 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 (hemorrhage) into the eye, which may decrease vision.
Along with a complete medical history and eye exam, your eye care professional may do the following tests to diagnose diabetic retinopathy:
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment based on:
Even people with advanced retinopathy have a good chance of keeping their vision if they seek treatment 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: