Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes and is one of the leading causes of blindness. It occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels inside the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy retina is necessary for good vision.
If you have diabetic retinopathy, at first you may notice no changes to your vision. But over time, diabetic retinopathy can get worse and cause vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes.
Who is at risk for diabetic retinopathy?
All people with diabetes–both type 1 and type 2–are at risk. That’s why everyone with diabetes should get a diabetic eye exam once a year.
During pregnancy, diabetic retinopathy may be a problem for women with diabetes. To protect vision, every pregnant woman with diabetes should have a diabetic eye exam as soon as possible.
How does diabetic retinopathy cause vision loss?
Blood vessels damaged from diabetic retinopathy can cause vision loss in two ways:
Fragile, abnormal blood vessels can develop and leak blood into the center of the eye, blurring vision. This is known as proliferative retinopathy.
Fluid can leak into the center of the macula, the part of the eye where sharp, straight-ahead vision occurs. The fluid makes the macula swell, blurring vision. This condition is called macular edema. It can occur at any stage of diabetic retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy often has no early warning signs until it advances.
During a diabetic eye exam, our eye doctor will evaluate for leaking blood vessels, retinal swelling (macular edema), pale, fatty deposits on the retina (signs of leaking blood vessels), damaged nerve tissue, and any changes to the blood vessels.
Early detection of diabetic retinopathy can reduce your risk for vision loss!
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