Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that affects people with diabetes. It is the leading cause of blindness among men and women under the age of 65. Retinopathy is a complication associated with long-term diabetes that causes damage to the blood vessels at the back of the eye. If left untreated, it can eventually cause blindness.
Diabetes is a disease that can cause many associated health problems. Over time, excess sugar in the blood can damage the small blood vessels that provide nourishment for the retina. These blood vessels will begin to leak fluids that cause retinal tissue to swell and cloud vision. Usually the longer a person lives with diabetes, the more likely it is they will develop diabetic retinopathy. In fact, most diabetics do not develop diabetic retinopathy until they have been living with the disease for a decade or more.
Diabetic retinopathy is often asymptomatic until major bleeding occurs in the eye. That is why it is so important for people with diabetes to have regular eye exams that screen for retinopathy. Early detection of diabetic retinopathy can prevent vision loss.
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:
Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the retina. This damage occurs when high amounts of blood sugar begin to block blood vessels. The blockage produces bleeding and causes fluid to leak into the retina. This leads to all sorts of problems with vision.
There is also a more advanced form of diabetic retinopathy called proliferative retinopathy. At this stage of the disease, new blood vessels will begin to grow in the eye. The new vessels hemorrhage easily and can lead to scarring on the retina.
When it comes to diabetic retinopathy, prevention and early diagnosis is key. People with diabetes should be screened regularly for diabetic retinopathy. Strict monitoring of blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol can reduce the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, as can lifestyle changes like quitting smoking.
Treatment of diabetic retinopathy depends on how far the disease has progressed. Laser surgery can be used to seal off leaking blood vessels and prevent new vessels from forming. A surgical procedure called a vitrectomy can be used to address bleeding and repair retinal detachment. Medication is also available to reduce inflammation and prevent the growth of new blood vessels.
If you are living with diabetes, be sure to have regular eye examinations to detect the early signs of diabetic retinopathy.